Putting Together an SEO Team

SEO teamWhether you’re trying to put together your own firm or setting up an in-house team, building an SEO group is hard work. Every situation is different, and it would be impossible to cover everything in a single article, but it’s best to go into this with a road plan. Here are the essentials you need to know in order to get started.

Who You Need

When you’re hiring employees to meet SEO demands, realize that you’re looking for more than a job title. Universities don’t give away SEO degrees, and most of the people with the skill set you need have probably never even heard of search engine optimization, or at least given it any serious attention. With that in mind, here are a few ideas.

1. The SEO Consultant

While most of the people on your team won’t even need to know what SEO is before getting started, you will need at least one person who is very knowledgeable about the subject. Despite all the advances in the search engines to focus on branded sites, it’s still important to have technical knowledge of how the search engines work.

If necessary, you may outsource to an SEO consultant who works with many clients, as most people do, in order to train your team. In-house SEO consultants do not come cheap. The downside of training, of course, is that you will still be lacking in expertise if you do not have a full-time in-house SEO. It may be necessary to work with the consultant on an ongoing basis for quite some time before your team is able to take care of itself. Keep this in mind.

Your SEO consultant should understand concepts like domain authority, link building, keyword research, and search engine updates. They should be able to train your team on the difference between artificial search engine results (which are likely to be lost in future updates), and natural search engine results (which should stay successful over the long haul).

2. The Project Manager

The SEO consultant isn’t necessarily the best person for this job, although they often are. The project manager sets goals for the SEO team, goals that are often more business-centric than the goals an SEO consultant might set. The project manager should understand how to build company culture in order to unify SEO and branding efforts.

Oddly enough, the project manager of an SEO team doesn’t necessarily need to have tremendous experience with SEO, provided they have a close and trusted SEO consultant. However, the project manager should have marketing experience, preferably some experience with digital marketing. A social media marketer is likely your best bet, though you shouldn’t necessarily discount somebody who worked with pay-per-click ads. An email marketer can also be a good bet.

3. Content Creators

Nearly every sound SEO strategy places a central focus on content, because the penultimate goal of SEO is to establish your brand as an authority in the topics that are relevant to your target audience. Content creators can be hard to find, in large part because very few of your ideal employees in this area will be seeking jobs in marketing.

Your best bet here is to simply hire people who are already attracting attention online with their content. Rather than putting out a job listing or browsing the online marketing forums, try doing a Google search. Look for bloggers who have a decently sized audience, a natural link profile, and a consistent posting schedule. Ideally, hire bloggers who already write about topics relevant to your target audience, and who will fit your company culture. If you can, purchase their blog as well, and redirect it to your site. This will work wonders for SEO and audience building.

The same goes for any other type of content creator, whether it’s a graphic designer, a video specialist, or a photographer. Don’t focus on working with “marketers.” Just focus on people who have built an online following.

4. Outreach Specialists

Relationships are just as crucial to attracting online attention as content, if not more, so outreach is a must-have. Your outreach specialists will be contacting prospects for link building opportunities, building online relationships with influential people, and interacting with customers and audience members for online culture building.

Again, your outreach specialists don’t necessarily need to know anything about search engine optimization before you hire them. Look for people who have a strong social media and online forum presence. The key is to work with people who love to interact with strangers online, and who have managed to build solid relationships by doing so. Any experience with customer service or telemarketing is also a major bonus.

5. Analysts

Finally, you’ll need at least one data expert who knows how to measure results. Somebody with some SEO knowledge is preferable, but the primary focus should be on their ability to tease out insights from data. If need be, your SEO consultant can train them.

Your analyst’s primary job will be to analyze SEO processes and determine which ones are having the most impact. Statisticians and market researchers are a good fit. Economists, financial experts, and even many engineers should also be able to tackle the job effectively. The important thing to look for is the ability to work with large data sets and separate cause from effect.

Your analyst should be able to help you identify which strategies are most effective at building links, leading to conversions, building traffic, and so on. Somebody with a bit of coding experience and the ability to set up split-tests would be ideal.

A Few Things to Understand About SEO

There’s no way to cover everything you need to know about SEO right now, but there are a few crucial things you need to get before you even start taking steps toward building a team:

  1. SEO is not Cookie Cutter – This is probably obvious from the job descriptions above, but there’s no linear solution to SEO problems. SEO campaigns require both technical and creative skills, and must consider branding as well.
  2. SEO “Packages” Don’t Work – Search engine optimization is a dynamic process that must adapt to your brand, and the way that search engines and online culture change over time. Simply buying a package of links, even “hand built” ones, doesn’t get the job done.
  3. The Principle Goal of SEO is Thought Leadership – Search engines work by trying to identify the most influential and relevant page on the web every time somebody performs a search. It’s important to meet those requirements both technically and qualitatively in order to be successful today and tomorrow.

Keep these three ideas in mind as you put together your team.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yuri Arcurs

5 Ways To Use LinkedIn To Get More Local Business

Many small businesses shy away from social media, thinking there’s no way a global platform can be effective for promoting a local company. Nothing could be less true. Your customers aren’t turning to the yellow pages to find you anymore – they’re using search engines and social networking to find what they need. LinkedIn has the professional prestige lacking in many social media, making it ideal for promoting your business interests.

1. Get Recommendations From Customers

Image via Flickr by Simon Blackley

The most powerful form of advertising is word of mouth. When a trusted resource tells someone you’re good at what you do and are trustworthy, you can enter into the new relationship with them on the right foot. Without this referral, you have to prove yourselves every step of the way. When your customers are happy with your work, have them write about the experience on LinkedIn. Their referral gets published on your profile and is sent to their entire network. It’s advertising at it’s best.

2. Stay in Touch With Customers

Image via Flickr by San Jose Library

The focus of LinkedIn on business eliminates a lot of the clutter that drowns out your messages on many other social media. Instead of competing with a thousand messages about what’s for dinner, cute kitty photos, and political rants, you can craft concise messages to your customers, keeping a strong relationship alive. Sync your LinkedIn account with your other social media accounts, such as Twitter, for the best response.

3. Build a Network of Associates

Image via Flickr by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

LinkedIn is an excellent resource for finding industry associations you should be a part of. These associations establish credibility and lead to more referrals. LinkedIn is also a great place to find industry events to promote your business locally, such as trade shows, home and garden shows, and health fairs. These local events give you face to face time with local customers in need of your services.

4. Establish Yourself as the Local Expert

Image via Flickr by MDGovpics

Use your LinkedIn page to offer free and sound advice in your area of expertise. The best way to do this is by starting a blog and sharing all your blog posts on your LinkedIn feed. For example, if you’re a trade show display business, write a blog post once or twice per week on trade show marketing and custom trade show displays.

If you’re a plumber, tell customers how to protect their pipes from freezing, write a how to on DIY repairs and inform them on how often to maintain their septic tanks. This establishes you as a trusted industry expert, and you’ll be the first one they call when they need work. If you’re uncomfortable with your writing skills, hire a professional blog writer.

5. Rank Better on Search Engines

Image via Flickr by thms.nl

Businesses with social media pages such as LinkedIn rank better with search engines than those with only websites. This is because people can like and share these posts, meaning they bring value to many more people than a stagnant website. After you’ve set up your LinkedIn account, networked with others, and post your blog entries, you’ll notice a marked improvement in your search engine results.

Social media like LinkedIn reach further than local advertisements, but it’s still a very effective way to become an industry leader in your hometown.

Why Your Website Might Need an ‘Idiot Disclaimer’

own-risk-header

You may have heard about the woman who’s suing Match.com for $10 million after she was attacked by a man with whom the site matched her. If you aren’t familiar with the story, well, there’s a woman who’s suing Match.com for $10 million after she was attacked by a man whom she met through the popular dating site. Great, now you’re up to speed. After the dating site matched the two together, the couple knew each other for eight days before the woman, Mary Kay Beckman, ended the relationship. (Is it considered a relationship after only eight days? In any case, she severed ties.) Four months after she broke up with her Match.com buddy, Wade Ridley, he attacked her, stabbing her 10 times and stomping her head.

Ridley is dead–he killed himself in prison after being convicted of murdering a woman in Arizona. Ms. Beckman, meanwhile, underwent multiple surgeries to correct her numerous injuries and is understandably wary of trying online dating again. However, her decision to sue Match.com for $10 million is a bit of a head-scratcher. According to Beckman’s attorney, she’s pursuing a lawsuit because Match.com is “absolutely not safe” and implements advertising tactics that “[lull] women and men into a false sense of security.”

Unsurprisingly, Match.com finds the lawsuit “absurd.” After all, Ridley had no known criminal record so it’s not like they knowingly paired Ms. Beckman with a dangerous man. (I can’t imagine one of the features they list in a partner is “Enthusiasm for stabbing.”) Besides, meeting someone via an online dating site who turns out to be dangerous is irrelevant–she could have just as easily been set up with Ridley via a friend or family member, or met him at work. The risk factor in dating a complete stranger is the same whether you were set up with that individual in person or online.

Beckman’s angle with her lawsuit is that Match.com advertises how fun and awesome online dating is without highlighting the risks, which is pretty “no duh” considering we’re talking about advertising here. If companies were forced to disclose the drawbacks or risks associated with their products, Budweiser would have to show gruesome drunk driver-induced car crashes, McDonald’s would show morbidly obese people getting their feet lopped off due to type-2 diabetes, and the NFL would air spots highlighting the damaged brain scans of former athletes who can barely remember their names. The entire point of advertising is to polish up your turd of a product or service. You make everything seem sexier or more awesome than it actually is. Welcome to marketing.

Now, clearly Match.com has some pretty legit lawyers who should be able to handle this lawsuit handily. However, if you’re operating a business and you don’t have “popular dating site” levels of cash, you may need to implement a few “idiot disclaimers” on your site. Match.com actually lists some safety tips on their website that point out ways to stay secure when interacting with someone online and offline, and I’m sure their signup process includes various waivers and disclaimers. (I don’t have a Match.com account because I’ve had the same ball and chain for the past 8+ years–errr, I mean, Jason, if you’re reading this, I love you! Please don’t stomp my head.) I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know how legally effective these disclaimers, terms of service, and words of caution are, but they can’t hurt.

I know that sticking “idiot disclaimers” on your site are a bit of a buzzkill, especially if the tone of your site is more light-hearted and fun. But in such litigation-happy times, it’s better to beat a dead horse and be extra-cautious when spelling out potential risks or drawbacks associated with your products or services. Even if you cram them into the footer, at least you can readily point to something should a customer or user come complaining. That way, you’re doing the bare minimum to try and cover your ass in case shit goes south.

What sort of ridiculous complaints have you received from your users? Do you have any “idiot disclaimers” in place on your site? If so, did they quell the gripes or were they largely ignored?

(photo credit: Daquella manera via photopin cc)

Reminder: Raven Tools Imports, Historical Data, and Wildcards

We’re quickly coming up on Raven Tools’ deadline for getting rank tracking out of their system. If you haven’t already, make sure to send over your API keys so that we can import your keywords and domains before the API is shut off.

Historical Data

If you haven’t already, make sure you export a copy of your historical data from Raven. Info on how to do that can be found here. Our importer for the historical data is going through some final testing today and the interface for allowing you to upload the zip file from Raven Tools will go live in the next couple of days. Since we elected to do these imports from the zip file rather than the API, we’re not limited by the January 2nd deadline to get this data in. With the number of people coming over from Raven Tools and the amount of data that will be imported, doing the imports via API wasn’t a safe and reliable option. You do need to make sure to get the export file from Raven though.

Wildcards

For those who have had data imported from Raven, you may have noticed some URLs containing “((!wild!))” at the beginning. These are URLs that were being tracked in Raven’s system as “*.” so that all subdomains were being picked up. Since our system can track as granular of a URL as you would like, we can’t reliably use the “*” to indicate a wildcard. By allowing this wildcard to be used in place of subdomains, subfolders, or file names, everyone ends up with much more flexibility in what they are able to track and separate out in their tracking. We’ll be refining the display and use of those “((!wild!))” indicators over the next week and we’re pretty sure everyone will find the flexibility to be invaluable.

Communicating When Working Remotely


Last week at PubCon, Wil Reynolds and I were talking after lunch and he mentioned that he preferred having his team all in the same office. I can respect that and in some cases it’s a necessity. On the other hand, I feel that if you have a great team, it really doesn’t matter where they are when they’re getting sh*t done. They will excel regardless of the environment.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve worked at least 80% of my time from somewhere other than an office. Sometimes it’s on a road trip or “vacation” (do any of us really go on vacation anymore?) and sometimes it’s from home. The biggest obstacle each team I’ve worked with has always been communication. It sounds like that is Wil’s biggest concern when it comes to his team. I don’t blame him for that concern. It’s perfectly legitimate and in some cases, there’s no reasonable solution for it.

Here at AuthorityLabs, we’re all increasingly working remotely. Our CTO is now in Raleigh, NC (we’re based in Chandler, AZ), two of us are home almost all of the time, and the rest of the team knows they’re free to work from wherever they feel necessary. With the increased separation, there have been some growing pains for sure. At this point though, we’re more efficient than we have ever been and communication has been great. [Read more...]

8 Tips To Get More From Our Partner API

Our Partner API currently serves up hundreds of millions of requests per month. Not only are our partners, such as Raven Tools, using it, we are taking advantage of it for getting data into our new interface. Whether you’re new to our Partner API or you’ve been using it for a while, there’s a good chance some of the following tips will help you get more out of our API.

Go Fast

Many people that start out on our API are afraid to POST keywords at full speed. I’ve seen people put 30 second delays between POSTing keywords. The API was built to handle just about anything that can be thrown at it and scales to accommodate the needs of our users. The only real restrictions on how fast you should post are your hourly limits and how fast your servers can process callbacks.

Use Custom Callback URLs

When adding keywords to either our delayed queue or immediate queue, you have the option to send a custom callback URL for us to hit when we have data on that keyword. For the sake of improved performance and easier tracking of callbacks, we recommend passing a URL with an ID that matches up to an ID in your system. This can be a keyword ID or just a POST ID to track which callback matches which post. Running data at scale pretty much makes this a requirement. [Read more...]