By Al Kao, Natural Search Supervisor, Content Solutions
For most of my SEO career, I have worked in small, entrepreneurial SEO, SEM, and web development companies. Many being firms where there are probably no more than 20 people and I had to wear many different hats at once. This is probably a familiar story for a lot of SEOs. Maybe you didn’t start off in SEO but were forced into it. Maybe you wanted to work as an SEO but started off in a small firm – in someone’s garage even!
As an SEO in these firms, I am accustomed to analyzing and identifying what needs to be fixed and then having access to the websites and fixing it. But since working at larger agencies, such as RM, I’ve had to learn a different set of SEO skills: communication and relationship management.
In a small SEO firm, as the SEO specialist, once a project comes in, I typically would reach out to the new account leads and explain what I needed from them. This meant gaining access to the website and afterwards downloading a copy of the website to optimize while the site remained live. I was usually left to my own devices after the initial pleasantries. I then would focus on the site architecture, coding, content, and so on and make appropriate optimization adjustments.
At larger agencies, however, working with SEO accounts takes on a whole new level. Instead of being able to take everything under my control, I have to work with other parties. This can include an internal SEO guru, IT personnel, marketing personnel, or even other agencies that manage the account website.
Instead of taking things by the horn, I now have to be both diplomat and educator. The IT director may not understand or see the value of SEO at all, while his marketing director is screaming for things to get done. Instead of diving into HTML code or creating character-limited title tags, I am analyzing and crunching data and working with both parties to demonstrate and help them understand the value of SEO.
It is a different experience and different set of skills, yet it reminds me of my time when I sold SEO services. The focus when I sold SEO services was to talk business and make the connection between business goals and how SEO can help achieve those goals.
In being forced to think and approach SEO differently, I find that the typical SEO talk – code and link-building – seems trite and banal. After all, what does changing this code and getting a couple hundred more inbound links REALLY mean? Isn’t it all about what’s in it for me (the marketer/account lead/decision maker)?
Instead I relish not only providing the analysis and recommendations to varying players, but also researching and presenting data in a digestible way that demonstrates the value of SEO.
Demonstrating the value of SEO is also a topic that is gaining greater importance within the SEO community. As internet marketing and search engine marketing gains greater importance within a company’s marketing mix, and as the internet and users mature into greater sophistication, demonstration of value will increase in importance.
Showing the value of SEO still seems to be the holy grail for many reputable SEO firms and SEO professionals, but that may very well be the differentiator among SEOs.