TAMPA, FLORIDA — Creating an in-house SEO program from scratch can be a daunting task. Who to hire, what to focus on, when to transition, where to begin and how to measure success are all questions that need answers.
Ali Husayni, the founder of the SEO consulting firm Millionairium, helps businesses find those answers and establish their SEO teams while minimizing their risks and maximizing their return on investment.
“Putting together an in-house SEO program does not have to be a bumpy ride,” Husayni says. “Using an SEO consultant to get the team up and running makes the process smoother and faster, and you are much more likely to get effective SEO from the beginning.”
Before doing anything else, a business that wants to set up an SEO program has to research their market. Finding out who the competition is and how stiff it is helps with the next step of making a plan and budget. After all, a business needs to ask questions, and lots of them.
The first questions to ask revolve around a business’s target market. Things to consider are varied, but of equal importance. For instance, how competitive is the market? How much investment is needed in marketing to stay competitive? How much effort is it going to take to rank within the top three? Top five? On the first page of Google search results?
After market goals are set, naturally businesses progress to questions about the goals for SEO. What will SEO accomplish for the company? How does the team know it is making progress? How will return on investment be measured? What strategies are in place to convert onsite visitors to sales?
While researching the market, read articles and news about the industry in general to learn the latest trends and happenings. After all. they will be affecting the SEO team the company is trying to establish.
In a recent article by SmartBlog, Simon Heseltine, AOL’s Director of Search Engine Optimization, recommends using sites like SearchEngineWatch, an online resource for news and articles on SEO, PPC and Social Media.
“The SEO community is also very active on Twitter, Google+, etc. Follow as many as you can, listen and participate, you’ll find articles and news that you may otherwise have missed,” Heseltine says.
While a consultant will be the most efficient and helpful, Husayni says that Moz.Com, Search Engine Land and Matt Cutts’ blog (Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam team), are all wise choices for resources to read up on.
“A consultant creates a customized strategy and roadmap for setting up the company’s in-house SEO,” says Husayni. “Then the team receives training and is guided through the process of fully integrating SEO into the dynamics of the organization, daily workflow and politics.”
Drawing up a realistic budget that takes into account the resources that will be needed is made simple by using the information gathered from the research about competition, the market, and the company’s SEO goals. Typically, two separate budgets work the best — one for labor, the other for promotional expenses, which included directory listings and press release submissions.
Decide On A Framework
The research should give plenty of information to work with for the next step of creating a framework for the team, though opinions often differ on how many team members are needed. There is no right or wrong answer because each company has specific needs and a certain budget. Some companies want part-time employees, some want full-time. Some want a one-person show, while other companies might choose to hire separate people for positions including tech, writers, a public relations specialist, researcher, and a number of other openings.
Bob Tripathi, an internet marketing business expert and SearchEngineWatch.com blogger, insists that passion can make up for lack of manpower in a recent blog post. “Much can be accomplished in a small to medium company by even an army of one,” says Tripathi.
Husayni agrees that a well-rounded SEO professional can accomplish a lot. However, he says, a person who both knows the technical aspects of SEO and is an effective writer is a rare jewel, which is why Husayni recommends one of each.
Assembling The Team Member (Or Members)
Now that the company knows what they are looking for, and how much they have to spend, they can start hiring the team. But what makes a good SEO expert? Businesses want people that are capable of running a full-fledged SEO campaign and running it well.
According to Husayni, the best way to determine that is to look at the applicant’s track record by asking them questions and scrutinizing samples of his or her work.
An SEO expert will have, at the very least, a proficiency in (X)HTML, on-site and off-site optimization, Java Script, WordPress and link building. They will also have examples of their successes. Questions about a hypothetical website can reveal gaps in knowledge or confirm the skills listed on the resume:
- What’s the most important factor in optimizing a site?
- What are three important things you change in a site when first optimizing it?
- What are the top three optimization mistakes an SEO guy can make?
- How do you plan to increase link popularity?
- How do you keep up with the changes in the SEO world?
Getting a good idea of an SEO writer’s track record, on the other hand, is just as important. This person will be developing content for the website and producing articles and press releases that act as the voice of the company. Copy that is easy to read and free of grammar and spelling errors is essential.
A writer needs to know how to create fresh, relevant content that incorporates the company’s keywords. Of course, the well-written information has to be put out there for the target demographic to find, so a writer that already knows industry leaders and ways to generate in-bound and out-bound links through content is a big plus.
“The big caveat here is when people know the right questions to ask but are not sure if the answers are correct or good ones,” says Husayni. A consultant can quickly assess whether a candidate is capable of managing an SEO campaign and getting results.
People who are looking for a general guide or description of characteristics an in-house SEO needs can check out a summary by Tribathi in a recent blog post.
Put In The Time And Be Patient
Time is often the biggest concern for businesses starting up an SEO program. They are impatient to get things up and running, and they want to get to the results part right away. But it takes time to hammer out logistics. It takes time to find and hire quality professionals. It also takes time to get results. The main thing to keep in mind is being able to trust each service provider, because one bad egg could potentially harm the marketing campaign.
“Each site claims it holds the mantle of SEO and is the expert on the subject, but only a few sites can be trusted,” says Husayni.
He recommends allotting one to two months for the hiring and training period since a hands-on and web-savvy individual typically needs about six-ten hours of coaching to understand the basics of best SEO practices.
“Hiring the wrong SEO team, or hiring the right team but not training them, means the company may lose its edge over the competition,” says Husayni. “Hiring a consultant or coach will save months and possibly years of headache.”
In-House SEO Success
Now, for the answer everyone is waiting for: when will the company see results?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The length of time it takes to see results varies based on the SEO team, the market, the budget and the website. To put that in more concrete terms, businesses that outsource to Millionairium can expect SEO performance to steadily improve over two to three months; optimal results usually take six months to a year.
In-house SEO is worth doing, which means it is worth doing well. The initial setup may be time-consuming, but with a clear SEO strategy, and patience, it is definitely worth doing.
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