How In-House SEOs Can Add Value Beyond Search

Let’s face it – you’re only worth as much as it costs to replace you. Most businesses are going through budget cuts and lay-offs, or have at some point in the last two years, which makes it more important than ever to prove your value to your company or client.

They could hire another SEO for your salary… but they can’t hire another SEO; and a merchandising analyst; and a marketplace analyst; and a PR firm; and a blogger; and a customer service rep for your salary. Yet, a good SEO will be ALL of these things!

Be Needed Everywhere

For most businesses, Search Engine Optimization has a role to play in every stage of the buying cycle. Yet many SEOs think of themselves as only playing a significant role while someone is searching for a product or service to buy.

You can help customers become aware of their needs through various channels, including article distribution, guest posts, targeting specific industry keywords with helpful content… All of this can be done through search:

  • Awareness of Needs Search – “supplies for starting a widget business”
  • Assessment of Alternatives – “widgets” or “blue widgets VS red widgets”
  • Alleviation of Risks search – “blue widget reviews”
  • Decision Making search – “Acme blue widgets”
  • Achievement of Results – “Acme Blue Widget store, Denver”

Provide Value to the PR Team

While the PR team focuses on getting news out and handling major controversies (in some cases), you are focused on leveraging PR to build links.

But when you do online reputation management (ORM) or backlink laundering to improve the rankings of an external site – you are doing PR.

When you leave a helpful comment on a blog post or answer a question on Yahoo Answers – you are doing PR.

When you network with others in the industry to build a community of like-minded SEOs who can help you build links and sway results on a day’s notice – you are doing PR.

You can further help the PR team by being their eyes and ears on the ground. Help them fight fires before fires develop. Subscribe to search engine alerts for blog posts mentioning your brand. Use them to build links, but also to monitor discussion. If a blog post or comment thread starts to go sour on your brand, notify the PR team so they can respond appropriately.

Provide Value to the Dev Team

Aside from your usual SEO duties to work with development on crawlability issues and such – provide added value by helping them spot vulnarabilities or alerting them of spam issues, cross site scripting attacks, etc… Again, Google alerts comes in handy here. For instance, use it to find out if your site has been hacked for spammy linkdropping purposes.

Provide Value to the Customer Service Team

As an SEO, you are out there every day interacting with blogs and social media profiles, and probably comments on your company or clients’ websites. When working on a give-a-way project with an industry blogger, pay attention to the comments. People often have questions about the product or service being given away: “Does that come in a different color?” “why does it cost so much?” These make great customer service opportunities. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, forums, or your own blog. If you can help your customer service department show the public that your company cares about and pays attention to what they have to say – that’s value above and beyond your rank on Google.

Provide Value to Business Development and Merchandising

An SEO is in a unique position to answer questions like:

  1. “What is selling well for our competitors?”
  2. “What else are our customers trying to buy?”
  3. “What is the next hot thing?”

This can be of great benefit to those responsible for sourcing new products or services.

During your competitive analysis and link building efforts, you’ve probably also developed an in-depth knowledge of the players in your industry, both as competitors and potential strategic partners. Provide ideas and links to the business development team regarding who they might want to contact.

Sure, you may not get the credit when a big deal goes down – but that business management VP will have your back when the budget cuts come around.

Those are just a few of the general ways to provide added value as an SEO in a large company.
Here are some specifics just to put things in perspective:

  • Give the buyers / merchandisers a quarterly report showing which keywords were searched for internally but returned zero results. These are things your customers want you to offer.
  • Give the buyers / merchandisers a quarterly report showing which non-brand, product-related keywords your competitors are bidding for and/or ranking on, highlighting those that you do not carry. If a competitor bids highly or spends time optimizing for a certain product or service, chances are they’re doing it for a reason.
  • Give the business development and/or executive team an annual report called “The State of the Industry in Search” highlighting your biggest competitors in search, those who are gaining ground, those who are losing ground, and those who are not directly competitive but similar enough to perhaps be a potential strategic partner. Your biggest competitors on search engines aren’t always your biggest competitors in the industry. Search is a more level playing field than catalog or TV. The “little guys” can come up fast to catch your VPs by surprise.
  • Keep an ongoing list of the top ten questions and/or top ten complaints and/or top ten compliments from blog entries, blog comments, Twitter and Facebook posts, forums… and provide it to the customer service team so they can compare it with their own lists and perhaps find some new issues to resolve.
  • Provide your copywriters with a list of questions people have asked in blog comments, forums, etc… like “how heavy is this thing?” so they can make sure such questions are answered in the product or service description. This provides a better user experience, more keyword-rich web content, and lifts the load on the customer service team by answering questions before customers have to call.

I’m sure you can think of plenty of other examples yourself. I’d love to hear about them in the comments field below so I can add them to my list!

Everett Sizemore is the Manager of SEO Strategy for Gaiam, Inc. and blogs about e-commerce SEO on his website www.esizemore.com. You can follow him on Twitter and connect on Linked-In.

Comments

  1. I wrote about this back and Sept. as it related to my in-house SEO position and it is really true!! Don't typecast yourself as a one-trick-pony! http://jaygranofsky.com/seoall-around-marketing-guy/

    Comment by Jay G. - January 18, 2010 @ 3:32pm
  2. SEO is a benefit to every department and marketing operation in a company. The tough part is helping people see it this way.

    Comment by Richard Hostler - January 20, 2010 @ 11:06am
  3. Great post! This is stuff that I am currently working with and your take on things is much appreciated! A couple of days ago I wrote about some of the in-house tricks I use to sell SEO. http://hette.ma/5-tips-to-sell-search-engine-optimization-within-your-organization/

    Comment by Dennis Hettema - January 21, 2010 @ 5:28am
  4. You do get a pretty decent birds eye view of your customers, the competitions customers and the competitions products from SEO. Its odd as Search develops over time, it becomes more and more about social engineering.

    Comment by UGC Victory - January 21, 2010 @ 2:01pm
  5. I like your perspective on leveraging SEO into the myriad other departments of business. It's so true that from our behind the scenes vantage, we have such a powerful edge into so many other worlds. Your PR analogy was spot on. I also liked the utility of how to use this information relating wise, for job-security, increased value to a business. The more we as SEO's leverage our skills to assist other's functions, the more critical we become. In essence, we're SEO'ing ourselves within the workplace ; ) Following on Twitter!

    Comment by Seattle Lasik - June 14, 2010 @ 2:37am
  6. Great article but do not forget that a good seo expert can also replace the sales department and strategy deparment. In short everyone is replacable!

    Comment by daniel larsson - July 19, 2011 @ 6:39pm
  7. Interesting your take about being SEO professional should also include becoming PR professional. Good to read :)

    Comment by SEO - April 9, 2012 @ 11:44am

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