The grass is always greener on the other side, right? I’ve heard a few SEO consultants say that they want to trade in their entrepreneur hat for that of an in-house SEO at a medium-to-large company. In all fairness, I’ve heard MANY more in-house SEO’s say they want to become independent consultants, but that’s another topic for another time.
So you want to work in-house? Great, here’s what you need to know: it’s tough. It can be like banging your head against the wall. In fact, I would most liken it to herding cats in the sense that you are trying to corral dozens (if not hundreds) of people, teams, vendors, and departments. Each has their own job to do, their own deliverables and success metrics.
That’s the worst of it though. I found my time as an in-house SEO at CarMax to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. What made it all worthwhile? The people. The sense of teamwork and camaraderie that you can’t get working at home at your kitchen table. The pride that comes from knowing that at the end of the day, it isn’t just about selling used cars. It’s about working together towards a common goal. Sharing in the successes and encouraging each other through the defeats.
Your job as an in-house SEO is to share your knowledge of a somewhat obscure field and help others do their jobs better. You are the facilitator, the motivator, the ass-kicker, the coordinator, the educator, the sympathizer, and the collaborator. Here, as I see them, are the challenges and opportunities for in-house SEO’s. I’ll share the traits that will make you a successful SEO in your company in a follow-up post.
- Corporate structures that are built around CYA, quick wins, and resistant to change.
- Entrenched processes and routines that make it difficult or impossible to break down the walls between business units and departments.
- People that don’t “get” SEO and its increasingly important role in the marketing mix.
- Other agencies or departments that knowingly exclude SEO representation in their recommendations or decision-making processes.
- Budgeting and planning processes that aren’t flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions or new opportunities.
- Legacy sites and corporate systems that aren’t capable of evolving or adapting to the pace of technological change.
- Multiple business units that don’t know how or won’t give the in-house SEO a seat at the table when making strategic or tactical decisions.
- Smaller, more nimble competitors that can react to changes in the market much faster and exploit weaknesses or gaps in your SEO or marketing strategies.
- Established brands with more recognition and awareness can be leveraged to overcome the challenges caused by upstarts and smaller competitors.
- Existing customer base of satisfied purchasers that can be tapped to generate unique content, capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing, sample your newest offerings, and help launch any social networking or promotional initiatives.
- More marketing channels that create a big “brand footprint” and can each contribute to SEO.
- Teams of experts that know more about their respective fields than any SEO ever could. These could be media planners, PPC gurus, PR whizzes, sales superstars, or customer service wunderkinds.
Generally speaking, in-house SEO at a large company is like steering an ocean liner. Anything that heavy is unlikely to change course without monstrous effort. But once the momentum shifts is hard to stop and people either have to get on board or get the hell out of the way.
The next post will focus on the traits of successful in-house SEO’s and what you need to know to become one.
[UPDATE] Link to the new post about successful in-house SEO traits added.