In last month’s column, I made the case for going in-house and shared my experience of switching from a successful consulting and lead gen career to joining the ranks of Silicon Valley’s startup scene.
That article talks about some of the things to consider before accepting a job and what to expect as an in-house SEO. Now that you’re through the door and in the house, lets talk about where to go and what to do next.
Starting Fresh Or Starting Over?
Fresh off of Clicker’s recent acquisition by CBS, I’m actually getting to go through the process of starting in-house all-over again. This is a good thing as I’m gaining a completely different perspective this time around. You see, despite Clicker and CBS both being TV companies, they’re just a wee-bit different.
Whether you’re a consultant or an employee, the same steps apply when starting the SEO for a site that’s new to you. You still have the same process of research, analysis, prioritization, planning, developing a strategy etc. But how you approach them and how you work with your new team to execute the strategy successfully will be different.
Before you can move forward, you’ll likely need to take a few steps back. Understanding where the company is coming from, their vision, and why they’ve made the decisions they have will help you figure out how SEO fits into the product vision, marketing plan, and overall business strategy.
Some of the questions you’ll want answered that directly relate to SEO will include:
- Was someone in-house before you?
- Have they worked with an agency/consultant? If so, who?
- Have there been any penalties on the site? You basically want a complete history of both the SEO and domain.
When I started at Clicker, the SEO strategy was complicated. Being that the founding team came from Ask.com, much of the team was indirectly connected to the SEO world. Because of this, they had already talked to and took advice from just about every single SEO on the planet.
As you can imagine, there was some serious conflicting advice and they were getting pushed in many different directions.
They did have some basic SEO in place, but overall, I was pretty much starting fresh and ready to move onto the following four areas.
Research & Analysis
Keyword research, competitive market analysis, and a full SEO analysis is in order here. Yes, all of the same things you would be doing as a consultant, only now it’s greatly magnified.
You’re not splitting your time between X number of clients or projects anymore, this is your full-time responsibility and that needs to be reflected in your quality of work. Expect to analyze things you’ve never thought of analyzing before.
Every site has a ton of things that could and should be fixed when it comes to SEO. Knowing where to start, picking the lowest hanging fruit, and deciding where best to focus efforts is critical at this stage, especially if you’re at a startup where timing is crucial and you need to be nimble and move fast or die. You simply cannot afford to waste time.
Develop The Strategy
Now that you understand the product vision, the site’s history, the overall business goals and the competitive landscape, you’re ready to develop a plan that fits into the business strategy. Once complete, you’ll present your plan to the executive team and sell them on it.
You’re now ready to work with your team to best execute your strategy. Understanding the company’s org chart is a must here as you’ll need to know who can help you get things done correctly and efficiently. And be flexible with your plan. As you start implementing it, you’re going to quickly learn that some of the stuff just doesn’t work and some will work better than expected.
The size of the company you’re working for and the number of sites they have under their umbrella will determine the appropriate time spent before you start executing. In my case, this all took me about 2-3 weeks at Clicker before we were ready to move forward with the SEO efforts.
Other Aspects To Consider
If you’re joining a startup, expect that you’ll need to be frugal with budgets and probably won’t be able to hire or outsource all of the work – you’ll have to get your hands dirty. Don’t expect this to be a management position as time and resources are far too precious for you to be sitting comfortably pushing paper from one side of the desk to the other.
People at startups wear many different hats, so instead of hiring experienced SEOs to work under you, leverage existing talent and figure out the most efficient way to teach others to fish for themselves so you can spend your days in the trenches along side with them.
This will vary if you’re joining a large company. They can afford to invest time & resources that will make life more comfortable if that’s your style.
The best analogy I can think of is that working at a startup is like driving a speedboat, while working for a large corporation is akin to steering an oil tanker. Find out which driver’s seat you want to be in and grab the steering wheel.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.