In House: Big SEO

Aug 22, 2007 - 5:45 pm 2 by

SES San Jose 2007 Issues Track: In House: Big SEO

Speakers: (Moderator) Jeffrey K. Rohrs, VP, Agency & Search Marketing, ExactTarget Bill Macaitis, VP of Online Marketing & SEO/SEM, Fox Interactive Media Marshall D. Simmonds, Chief Search Strategist, New York Times / Melanie Mitchell, Vice President of SEO/SEM, AOL Bill Hunt, CEO, Global Strategies International Kara Jariwala, Search Strategist, Cisco

Marshall Simmonds

We've broken up the topics into 5 categories, I'm going to be discussing hiring and retaining talent.

Challenges - New Employees/Turnover - 11M documents (and more all the time) - URL integrity - maintaining standards - Paid subscription wall - TimesSelect - New site launches - IT developments - Corporate acquisitions

Methodology that works for big brands: I. Organize II. Analyze III. Educate -- constant education for new and old employees.

How did we enable in-house talent to get these results? - Build a well-organized SEO program -- On-site SEO program manager at each NYTCo property responsible for leading cross-functional etam to push optimization agenda. -- Engaged team of marketing, tech, research, editorial and even sales -- Everyone has a role in creating and maintaining search intiatives. -- Share success when a newly visible section gets great links or achieves good rankings -- Be a resource for employees that are heavily involved in the SEO outcome, and also for those who aren't focused on search. -- Be a liaison

Who can you hire for SEO? - Skills: --- Can come from many different interenet and/or marketing experiences --- Marketing background -- understands importance of metrics --- Thorough understanding of "Best practice" search optimization techniques and marketing methods with current knowledge of latest and future industry trends in the search arena - We execute strategy and measure results on an ongoing basis --- Metrics save jobs

Incentivize based on performance of properties, incentivize based on total search referrers on a TOT basis. Set milestones related to site/section performance. Make SEO training part of new employee curriculum.

Bill Hunt: Defining Opportunity

This is the carrot or stick part that Marshall alluded to... I like that "metrics save jobs" thing... the problem is metrics also lose jobs, hence the carrot or stick.

What are things your execs ask? 1. What is SEM and why should I care? 2. Tell me how this helps me meet my objectives? 3. Where do we stand today? 4. What is our competition doing? 5. What do you propose we do?

Why calculate your opportunity? It makes the business case and justifies the investment. It also allows you to focus your activities and identify gaps. Make sure you set expectations and keep it real. Monitor your performance and keep track of your metrics.

To evaluate your opportunity, take your "goal words" and look up the estimated searches per month for each (this goes into your matrix). Next, look in your log files and find out your current SE traffic and what percent each is of your overall traffic. Make a column for your current Google rank for each term. (Execs like ranks, it's a simple concept they "get"). Next, project your visits. Next, calculate the value of a visit. Now show the revenue opportunity. Break it out and show what the costs and ROI.

Importance of understanding intent... we've created a model we call the Searcher Mindset. Mindset > Goal > Keyword > Projection. Determine which types of searchers you reach/try to reach and use each of their unique motivations and behaviors and apply your goals to predict/project the keywords you need and what kind of traffic (and therefore dollars) you shoud expect.

By showing that you increased traffic X% to these pages that are important to the company, you're cementing your case and ensuring your budget. Remember, there is rarely "new money" so give solid justification of what should be cut and the business case for change. Understand the goals of the current budget allocations and show how search can compliment or increase results over current spend. Explain competitive pressures and missed opportunities. Prepare for turf warfare and budget battles.

Eat the elephant... one bite at a time!

Bill Macaitis: How to get a project through

This is one of the most common pain points. I want to go through and discuss all the SEO roadblocks. Like editorial doesn't like it when you tell them you want a certain keyword density.. design looks at you funny when you say "no flash".. finance won't give you any money because it's supposed to be "free".

1. Define your opportunity (see Bill's portion of slides) 2. Evangelize -- lots of people don't understand SEO... so help them 3. Sell all the stakeholders 4. Find allies 5. Focus on small wins -- let people start to see the impact for future buy-in 6. Focus on your money words -- your money word is whatever your CEO's favorite pet words are. If the CEO is happy, everybody is happy 7. Education 8. Weekly meetings -- monitor projects, keep everyone in the loop, keep the communication going 9. Build relationships 10. Bribes -- do what you can to get the ball rolling on your project 11. Face to face -- Meet with the roadblock person... email doesn't suffice 12. Internal competition 13. External competition 14. Show past successes 15. Show past failures 16. Utilize ranking reports 17. Prioritize your projects 18. Put names against projects 19. Utilize deadlines -- hard deadlines keep things moving. 20. Accept no excuses for seo projects not getting through or getting started.

Kara Jariwala: Tools You Can Use

-- Keyword research is always where we start and metrics is always where we end.

-- Pick out the "just right" to track. There are words we know are "too hot", the search volume in a particular month is just off the charts, but then the following month is drops off tremendously. There are words that are "too cold" in that there just isn't enough volume there to justify bothering with them.

-- Automate your research. There are different software packages you can buy; most are ASP type of models. Automating your time consuming research frees up your time to focus on strategy.

-- Give your clients digestible pieces of data.

Melanie Mitchell: The Large Site Challenge

If your corporate culture or structure doesn't believe in or buy-into SEO, you simply cannot succeed. When I came to AOL, I had to ask them to change the entire way they do everything. The entire corporate structure was configured in a way that made optimizing for search completely impossible. To make SEO a big part of our strategy, we had to weave it into the corporate DNA, and make people aware that we're all responsible for it -- from the CEO on down.

The Six-Point Plan

- Create core search team (Subject Matter Experts, Systems Architect to connect the dots, Tech Lead (business analyst to interface w/ programmers), Front Liners (programmers), Program Manager, Project Managers)

- Set priorities, goals and incentives. In our case, we track search referrals, and we ties these referrals to people's bonuses -- this makes it more important to people :)

- Provide training. If you're going to hold people responsible and accountable, you have to provide training. In our case, it's required and graded and those grades roll up to supervisors/managers.

- Set internal standards. Make sure what you're doing is defined. It helps you check to see how you're doing.

- Provide tools. Help all of your departments be successful with their seo strategy.

- Measure and track (and adjust). Track pages indexed, search referrals, user behavior (abandonment, return visits, page consumption)

Thoughts to take with you

- You can't ignore search. - You need executive buy-in. - No accountability, no success. Your whole effort needs to have teeth. - Be transparent with the data. - Be willing to do what it takes.

Interesting Concepts...

-- Melanie Mitchell recommends -- free tools (spider simulator, keyword clouds, backlink checker), she also said AOL uses an internal version of Nutch (an open source search engine) to evaluate the AOL properties she oversees. According to the Nuth website, because it's an open-source SE, there is "no bias" in the results, and the ranking algorithm is visible and known.

-- All of the panelist seem to agree that search needs to be independent of other departments, or perhaps mostly independent with dotted line reporting to IT/Marketing/Finance, etc.


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