7 notes from the inhouse SEO to agency SEO’s

This is a guest post from a blogger who wishes to stay anonymous. Let’s call this blogger our own ‘Stig’ ;). The post is  a ‘letter’ from an inhouse SEO to agency SEO’s. Because after all, they need to work together, whether they like it or not.

The ‘letter’ contains 7 notes from the inhouse SEO to the agency SEO’s. We are curious about your comments!

1 We will cross paths and work together

That doesn’t mean I couldn’t hack it on my own, it just means I need more hands than there is budget available for, or that I’m preoccupied with having to troubleshoot that buggy printer on the third floor or the CEO’s hacked Facebook account since they decided to roam on an Eastern European open Wifi. A little understanding goes a long way!

2 Don’t presume the inhouse is not current on their SEO

I might not be privvy to the latest local content farm images for mobile image search ranking signals, but generally, I know my shit. It makes for awkward moments when you try to school me on any SEO 101 aspect. And frankly, it’s kind of insulting. Furthermore, you might learn: I could teach you things about my vertical you might not have thought about. Let’s grow together!

3 Don’t presume you or your coworkers are current on their SEO

I’ve seen some terrible advice documents. Like, “1998 called and wanted their SEO tips back” terrible. You have a presumed authority among people who don’t know any better: be mindful Young jedi. I’ve tried to be tactful about this one, but if you CC-ed it to several others, you’ve just bought me 45 minutes of having to downplay conflicting information with management. Vet the documents among your coworkers. Their ridicule is the lesser pain.

4 “And then you just.. ”

Let me stop you right there. In most compagnies, there is no “just” doing something. Your technical update is added to a long list of action points, Multi-disciplinary projects, assessed by management people who think “Scrum” is a Norwegian delicacy. Shit takes time. It won’t be implemented quickly, and probably not right the first time. Welcome to my world of hurt.

5 You will be leveraged

The inhouse is just another name on the payroll. You however cost hunderds if not thousands in consultancy fees. For my CEO, there is a magical correlation between how much you cost and how right you are. Guess what: I brought you in to make my point. Maneuver this tension field wisely. (The consultancy fees come out of my budget)

6 Online adoption maturity might shock you

A lot of companies don’t have dedicated internet employees. There may be a specialist floating around, but a lot of companies are struggling trying to make the mentality change towards operating systems more current than windows XP and being able to visit Social media sites without being fired on the spot. Factor this into your proposition. Which brings me to 7:

7 For the love of god, tailor your implementation changes to the organisation

My first point of business was cleaning up the terrible advice of creating pages for all types, subtypes and sub-subtypes of product that we deliver. “But what about your keywords? Don’t you love your long tail?” you might object. Well, with a growing inventory and an exponentially growing subcategory structure, we were left with such a granular distinction of pages, the product managers just filled them all with the same content.

Duplicate issues grew, visitors started to bounce from one page to the next and my content managers were drinking on the sly when faced with the daunting task of having to write unique content for 150,0000+ pages, of which 90% was so obscurely long tail it might attract 15 visitors a month at the cost of maintaining it all when products changed, and at the detriment of the 10% of pages that would bring in the juice.

Work out a cost-benefit analysis. Your advice might be SEO by the numbers, but results are made by real live people in real live situations. Factor in a little “human”: It might not be optimal SEO, but it will be optimal ROI.

In fact, I think most propositions shouldn’t be just about SEO and technicalities at all: You are (or should be) evangelising a way of marketing and business that has to be adopted in the company as a whole. Not everybody gets as exited by a perfect XML sitemap or beautiful rich snippets as us, but growing profit is a language that is universal. And who knows, I might attain the budget to hire you again.

So gather round the campfire and cuddle up, cause I still got love for you. Let’s work towards a better understanding: people working with people, getting other people to spend their money. This could be the start of something beautiful.

About State of Digital Guest Contributor

This post was written by an author who is not a regular contributor to State of Digital. See all the other regular State of Digital authors here. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of State of Digital.

30 thoughts on “7 notes from the inhouse SEO to agency SEO’s

  1. As someone who worked as an in-house SEO for years before jumping ship to agency-side: amen! Great points all round.

    Having said that, I’d never go in-house again, ever – unless some really big national newspaper with a clued-in digital strategy comes knocking (which is unlikely).

    There are pros and cons to working agency vs in-house, but for me agency-side wins on nearly all aspects.

  2. (…) they decided to roam on an Eastern European open Wifi

    So roaming Western World open Wifi seems like a good idea to You? Grown up – crakers/hackers are everywhere. And btw if You need to deal with such things like “buggy printer”, you’re not “inhouse SEO” but rather help desk combined with i-do-all-Internet-stuff guy – I just hope You get enough money for this kind of job, as it can be pretty frustrating being responsible for everything and having budget for nothing.

    1. I can tell you’ve never been an in-house employee in a technical role. Doing those side-jobs is not optional – when you’re perceived as technically skilled, you get asked (i.e. told) to do shit like that.

      Also, a sense of humour – while not a requirement when reading State of Search posts – is nonetheless highly recommended. Go get one.

      1. Barry – You talking to me about sense of humor and You sound so serious 🙂 I’m the in-house SEO right now (which can be called quite technical role, I think 😉 ) and I can assure You that I don’t have to do any kind of side-jobs. In fact if I would ever had problem with e.g. installing a printer I can call a help-desk guy and he would come to me and solve this problem.

        The point is I think You have very broad definition of an “in-house SEO”. It seems that for You this is the technical skilled guy who happens to take care of company website SEO. Well, for me it’s not an in-house SEO but more like technical staff guy with just another duty assigned to him. Majority of companies doesn’t have an in-house SEO – they just throw SEO stuff to (more or less) randomly chosen employer. I just disagree with the title of this post as it’s misleading because the author is not in-house SEO IMHO – the title should address all employees who happen to take care of SEO at their companies, not only SEO-specilaized ones.

        About sense of humor – well, Eastern Europe-kind jokes are kinda lame in mouth of Western World inhabitants who happens (directly or indirectly [through agency]) to outsource their SEO efforts to people who live in there (EE) or other Eastern countries. It’s like Chinese joking on how weak dollar is or Google joking on how stupid is clicking on ads, if You get what I mean 😉 No hard feelings though – if my previous comment sound too harsh, I’m sorry.

        1. Barry, I assume that this one was meant for me:

          Also, if you’re trying to be funny/sarcastic in a blog post’s comments, grow a set of testes and post with your real name. #anonymouscowards

          Oh, doesn’t it apply also to post author who apparently is “#anonymouscowards” and “trying to be funny”? 😉 Also – why You didn’t wanted to put it there, if You’re talking about “growing a set of testes”? Seriously – what’s the point?

          1. Indeed that’s sign of big cojones – personally offending me, just because I have different opinion. Now maybe we will back to more civilized discussion?

        1. Uncle_demotivator – I agree with Barry- one of the problems inhouse is that we are expected to be thought leader and proponent within the business of not just SEO but often the entire digital spectrum. As such senior people, who we befriend and network with to increase the adoption of SEO/digital skills within the company then see you as a more efficient route than the helpdesk. Its simply something that happens with the role.

          1. That’s my point, Robert – IMHO an in-house SEO is strictly focused on SEO/SEM and other activities connected to SEO, and not a guy who has to do help desk job as well. That’s why I wrote that most companies doesn’t have in-house SEO’s – they just assign SEO-duties to any technical skilled employee (which can be very frustrating).

            But honestly it’s just “in-house SEO” definition issue and my opinion – in fact every job position can be defined very widely.

  3. Ha, great article and very relevant points that agencies (not just SEO) do forget and need reminding on!
    Not to say inhouse doesnt have its special moments – but I do agree with these!

    Point number 1 has me reminded of a senior VP asking me every time his laptop broke!

  4. Great post – particularly from someone who again has worked both sides of the fence. Point 7 I think is key as many organisations have been affected by recommendations done for recommendations sake. At the end of the day, SEO needs to be profitable and accountable – and I think many SEO’s do often forget this for the sake of simply following best practise….

  5. This is an excellent post – most refreshing. I’ve found more than one agency to be incredibly patronizing, in vain attempts to pull wool over my eyes. I’ve worked at both agency and currently inhouse – i’ve found I get asked a pretty horrendous array of questions – a huge number about analytics, which I have some, but not a whole lot of, experience in. Someone even sent me a mail to say ‘Hi, thanks for adding me to Google Analytics, but how do you actually get to the site?’ – erm, how about searching for it?

  6. As on the bad guys (aka an agency SEO) I’ve had to do more than one SEO 101 session with in-house SEO. You have to understand from the agency point-of-view why we’re doing this – it’s usually because the client (aka your boss) has asked this of us. From my experience, I never mean to be condescending, I just have no idea what the in-house SEO knows so I need to start with the basics (especially if your site is missing some key basics). If your boss is asking for my help, I’m going to assume that you need it!

  7. Most in-house SEOs will hire an agency for the content writing and/or link building, not the overall SEO strategy. Most in-house SEOs are very much current on the latest and greatest and know exactly what needs to be done. I’ve spend about 5 years in-house and when an agency would offer me “website SEO audit”, I would consider this waste of time. So is the “keyword gap” research. How on the earth agency would know what keywords convert for me? I was actually quite tired of these “pitches” – “Are you aware that you don’t rank for XYZ”? The answer was simple that I didn’t want to rank for these keywords for the reasons that would not be obvious. If a company already has the in-house SEO team, I would assume that they have already done everything in their power to make their websites 100% SEO friendly. If it is not the case, this probably has to do with obsolete IT platform, not that SEO team is clueless. Just my 2 cents

  8. Great post!

    Personally I’ve always worked agency side but have got a lot of colleagues that are in-house too. Your points are correct though, yes there’s differences in the way SEO tasks are approached but don’t for a second walk into a meeting trying to undermine anyone; this personally is a massive pet peev of mine! Therefore points 2 and 3 definitely made it for me.

    Keep ’em coming!

  9. It’s all going off in these comments, I love a good heated comment debate.

    This I suppose touches on the ever present problem for anyone (client side or agency side) when you’re hiring an SEO – how good are they?

    Imo there’s no excuse for not listening to someone’s requirements when they have hired you.

    As a slight aside – agency side SEOs in these comments – are you client facing all the time? Or do you have account or project managers who deal with the client on your behalf?

  10. As someone who has had the role of in-house SEO, agency SEO, and independent consultant (who has also served in the role of “our agency’s SEO point person” in a white-label capacity), I’ve pretty much seen it all, and need to say YES! This article really touches some of the most important factors that in-house SEOs need to deal with and how agency and independent consultants can work to help their in-house counterpart a lot more.

    Well done!

  11. I would generally add add to point 2 that trying to understand a clients business is vital. I am not a professional SEO, but do work clientside helping manage and get the best from SEO agencies, most of whom are ace. But there is a tendency to show me irrelevant examples, and to sometimes forget why we’re doing SEO. We want customers to find us – Google (and others)? Just a means to an end..

    Oh, and ‘you’re scheduled for working on in three weeks time, we’ll look at it then’ goes against the grain when the web’s 24/7.

    As for silos, and who’s allowed to do what within companies….don’t get me started! From a client’s perspective, you’re one company. When I buy a dress, I don’t need to speak with the dressmaker. Really. I trust you. One point of contact and sort the rest out yourselves. It’s really not my problem. Don’t try and give it to me. I have enough of my own!

    Stepping down off my soapbox now. If it’s any consolation, we have the same kinds of issues between inhouse and consultancy in PR as well.

  12. Great post. Having worked for an agency in the past (now in-house), I can feel the pain on both sides. The right approach of let’s work together, we have the same goals (sort of) makes a win-win.

  13. Worked both agency and client side. Client side wins:

    – You choose to work for that brand and not be put on accounts/verticals which you do not have knowledge in or don’t find interesting
    – Not all SEO is exciting so if you are running a report then most of the time you need to multiply this action 4/5 times for each client
    – You learn other aspects of the business not just online marketing and this can feed into your work
    – You’re there so can be more reactive
    – There is more opportunity to be creative and innovate in your work

  14. Spot on from beginning to end. The same applies on a smaller scale when dealing with not so large clients. If they’re hiring us as their sole “web marketers”, then we’re put in charge of all kinds of IT responsibilities. It’s tough. Wish you’d name yourself, I’d love to follow you on twitter.

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