In-House/Agency SEO Expert: My Interview With Dave Rohrer
Published: October 29, 2012
Author: Todd Mintz
I’ve written before about how cool it is to show up in a strange city and meet up with a fellow search marketer. My recent company retreat in Las Vegas coincided with a search conference, and via social media, I learned that my search marketing colleagues Simon Heseltine and Dave Rohrer were in town. I had a drink with Simon in the Palms Coffee Shop and ate at the Planet Hollywood buffet with Dave before he headed to the airport. Both are really great guys, and Dave was generous enough to participate in this e-interview.
1) Please give me your background and what you do for a living.
I went to college thinking I wanted to build things; I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to build. My mom always said to go into computers, but the thought of sitting behind a desk didn’t seem to be something I would like. Well, after changing majors a few times, I fell into web development. Now I build websites, drive traffic to them and do so all while using a stand-up desk. Go figure!
My first few years of working in the online space were spent as a ColdFusion developer before I started to move towards SEO. Since then, I still lean on my developer background but like to hope that I think more like a marketer most days. Since then, I have spent 70% of my time as an in-house SEO (Automotive, Consumer Products, SAAS, Financial Services) and 30% at agencies (Covario, Netconcepts).
To find me online I suggest (but don’t encourage!) you to follow me on Twitter.
2) What skills does an in-house SEO need to excel and prosper?
In my past, I have had bosses who focused on rankings and others who were laser-focused on not just leads but quality leads. Every boss and organization is going to have different internal goals and company goals that your work will roll up into. The one skill that I have used time and time again when working in-house is being able to know how to state my case for a project and then argue for it against detractors. To move the needle and meet these goals, you will need your projects to be executed, and to do so you will need buy-in from multiple people and groups within the company.
Perhaps you have the greatest linkbait idea ever, and you just “know” that it will generate a ton of buzz and high-authority links and get the CEO on multiple news channels. But what if no one buys in and believes that it is worth their time and resources? It now will fall on you to champion your idea throughout the company and get buy-in from executives, directors, VPs, and anyone else who could roadblock your idea.
If you are unable to push through your own agenda and projects, you and your SEO program won’t help the company reach their goals.
3) Many in-house SEOs have to delegate tasks to an outside SEO agency and supervise the work. What’s the key to a successful relationship?
It needs to be a partnership first and foremost. There has to be strong teamwork and communication between the in-house SEO and the agency to gain traction within a company for projects. Every company has limited resources, and gaining time from IT, content owners, legal, and other groups requires a strong partnership to win these resources.
This partnership over months and hopefully years will continue to grow based on the following: strong communication, teamwork, project management, and alignment of goals between the company and the agency.
You often hear athletes talk not about winning the MVP Award or individual achievement but rather about winning games as a team and the overall season championship. When a company and agency partner to work together to win games and championships, the partnership will produce its best work and will have the biggest impact on the company’s goals.
4) Who are the important SEO stakeholders in an organization that you have
to work with, and what’s the key to working successfully with them?
Each organization is different, but generally I suggest finding out who are the champions and detractors at the start of any engagement or new in-house job. Once you understand who is going to support your projects and where the objections are going to come from, you have a head start on arming yourself for future meetings.
To quote G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle,” and in this case it couldn’t be a more fitting statement. You may learn why this detractor is against your SEO projects, but you still have to convince them of the projects’ value to their goals and the company’s goals. This in the long run will be your best method of gaining their approval and required resources. So whenever possible, win the detractors over by integrating their own goals into your project, and converting them from detractors to champions will be a bit easier.
I also suggest that you understand who the content owners and IT gatekeepers are within the organization. These two groups will have a lot to say about what your final optimizations and projects look like on the website.
5) How has being an in-house SEO helped you in the agency environment?
In an upcoming SES Chicago session Successful In-House SEO, I will be touching on this topic alongside Simon Heseltine.
In-house SEOs typically have a single boss but deal with multiple owners of functions within a company. At an agency, you will usually report to that same in-house SEO and through him/her interact with all of those same function owners. Understanding how to navigate and support the roadblocks and goals of each secondary “boss” at an agency is just as important as for the in-house SEO. Keep in mind that each new contact you work with during an engagement becomes a new boss with individual goals and priorities.
Always keep these secondary goals and priorities in mind when working on projects, and be sure to not only support the in-house SEO team but all of the teams they work with as well.
6) What do social media managers need to know about SEO that can help them succeed in their position?
One of the examples I hope to cover in December during my upcoming SMX Social panel, SEO For Social Media Managers, is how to use long-term URL planning to utilize the mentions and links generated by Social Media to benefit SEO.
The goal for an SEO will be to use a single URL that can be promoted, whereas most advertising campaigns will utilize multiple channels for promotion and thus possibly include many tracking variables to a single page. Social Media promotion may do the same thing where a shortened link is used in Tweets, marketing tracking variables, and any other modifications or variations used publicly for that URL in the campaign. Another example of URL to worry about is a shortened URL for print (ex. http://quickurl.company.com or http://www.companyurl.com/jump/) that is then used by the Social Media campaign.
So what happens to all of these URLs two weeks after the campaign ends? What about in two months? And what about in two years? All of those social mentions, bloggers, press, and high-quality links that are great SEO signals could be quickly undone by not planning what happens to the URL after the campaign ends.
By working with your in-house SEO or SEO agency, a Social Media Manager should work to create a URL plan that includes how to utilize all of those mentions and links. Bring in your SEO so that he/she can work with IT or vendors to make sure that 301s get used where they should and that all those links and mentions don’t simply end up pointing to a page that 404s two days after a campaign ends.
– Todd Mintz, Sr. Account Manager