The day in the life of an in-house SEO at Tribune – After Lunch
By Brent D. Payne
[Andy’s note: Want to know what Brent did before lunch? Check out part 1 here.]
1:00pm – 1:30pm – Get some type of food
Don’t forget to eat. Yeah, that’s about all I have to say on that. Other than don’t down a bunch of food that’s going to leave you lethargic later in the day. You need to stay motivated, your day is only half way done.
1:30Pm – 2:00pm – PageRank siloing and mainly PageRank consolidation
I’m a believer in both PageRank siloing and PageRank consolidation. In fact I’ve gone so far as to build dynamic tools to help me do so in different scenarios (more on that with a later post). This utilizes nofollow techniques but also utilizes 301 redirects to consolidate content pages into landing pages. I also attempt to create proper themes (though I have a lot of work still to do). Try a little bit of this every day. I’d recommend a lot of planning before execution and make sure it can be easily undone, just in case you make a mistake. I know I made a few of them and still have less than optimal situations on the Tribune sites.
2:00pm – 3:00pm – Calls to the local markets from L.A. to Florida. Discuss, train, find opportunities.
You need to find out what is happening ‘in the trenches’. Discuss what concerns or opportunities are out in the field. Engage with your content creators. Whether that is a team of thousands or just a handful, your content producers should be focused on SEO continually and engaging with them daily will keep SEO in the front of their mind when writing.
3:00pm – 4:00pm – Hands on technical and CMS changes (actually edit the meta data and content)
This when I roll up my sleeves and dive into the opportunities that exist that I can make an immediate impact with via simple changes like title tags, H1s, H2s, link structure, etc. I’m in a unique situation in that Google spiders us every 5 minutes or so (they have to with breaking news situations). Your opportunities may not be as immediate but getting your hands dirty on a daily basis helps you to recognize workflow problems within the system and will allow you to empathize with your different teams about CMS problems. If you can help alleviate some of the work flow issues under the guise of SEO from time to time, you will win a lot of equity with your teams. Happy teams are more useful teams.
4:00pm – 4:30pm – Search engine relationship development (IM, call, DM, Facebook, etc. SE contacts)
Yes, I have the search engines phone numbers, email addresses, IM accounts, Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, etc. etc. I’ve had this for years. This has nothing to do with company size. It has to do with putting forth an effort to create a relationship with individuals at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, etc. We all go to the same conferences. Figure out how to connect with people at the search engines. HINT: Start with the people that nobody is swarming around (i.e. not Matt Cutts, Nathan Buggia, etc.). The people that do not have swarms of over-eager people around them are more open to communication. BIGGER HINT: Don’t be pushy. Treat them as a person not as a search engine contact. Consider it a long-term investment not something you can utilize next week. Don’t ask for things that they aren’t suppose to share. BIGGEST HINT: Don’t blast their contact info. Don’t blast that you hung out with so and so. My mere mention of this portion of my day may come back to bite me.
4:30pm – 5:00pm – CMS & Technical changes project management
Keep projects moving forward. Stay focused on long and mid-term goals. Keep your teams busy doing SEO work. I’ve made a mistake recently of letting a tech project wind down for too long. We had a groove and a great vibe with the team. Now I’ve let it spin down between projects when I should’ve had the next project already dialed in and ready to launch upon completion of the previous project. Remember to reward your teams. I like to reward as big as management will allow. Maybe that means buying pizza or maybe it means taking them out to a Chicago Cubs Series Clincher.
5:00pm – 5:30pm – QA, make sure things are still working properly with recent roll-outs/changes
Things break. Code changes. Over eager tech and editorial people try to ‘fix’ things they ‘see’ without telling you. Take a few minutes each day to look over different portions of your site and code to make sure no surprises are popping up. I recently found some meta noindex tags on entire Tribune blogs this way. How did it happen? Not entirely sure, but I made sure I removed them. I even got a call from one of the columnists thanking me for ‘whatever I did to drive more traffic from search engines’.
5:30pm – 6:00pm – Evangelize SEO with upper management
Note the time that I do this! Don’t do it in the middle of the day. They are busy people. However, they tend to work later than most and it looks really good if you swing by their office after hours to drop a quick note about an SEO win, project update, or advice. The goal is to keep this short. Under no circumstances should it last more than 30 minutes. Have a list of things that you want to talk about but don’t be hung up on trying to mention all of them. Go with the flow of the conversation. Make sure you’ve done your homework so you don’t get blindsighted. Upper management is the best about pulling some weird ass situation out of their head and asking your opinion about it. I’ve been asked about a myriad of things that has nothing to do with SEO. If you don’t know something, tell them you don’t know but you’ll get back to them—tomorrow. Upper management can tell better than anyone when you are trying to bullshit them.
6:00pm – 6:30pm – Reflect on what upper management said and where you feel their focus is at
When you are with upper management do a lot of listening to discover what is important to them and then think for the next few days how you can help them accomplish what’s important to them within your area of expertise. The key there is to stay within your area of expertise. Do NOT tell them how to do their job though. Even within your area of expertise provide suggestions to them. Don’t tell them what to do. Form things as leading questions. For example: “What do you think about making changes to the way in which we name photo files? I think it could help to drive more photo gallery page views that I know is a goal of yours and I think I can get the team to get it done within the next couple of weeks. I’m estimating it could drive an additional 25% in photo gallery page views from search engines.”
6:30pm – 7:00pm – Call my 5-year-old son whom lives in Washington, DC
Personal time . . . don’t forget your family. You won’t be at your company for forever. But you will have your family for forever. Take time out to stay focused on that. I’m a divorcé and my obsession with work was one of many contributing factors to the divorce. Not seeing my son everyday is tough. Don’t make the same mistakes. Take time out!
7:00pm – 8:00pm – Special projects
Do the special projects that you are personally passionate about during times that won’t sacrifice the ‘meat and potatoes’ of your business. I choose to do it completely outside of normal business hours. I know this may not be typical and most of your will have some type of family/social life which you should make the higher priority. Just keep in mind that your personal passions may not necessarily be the best ROI. Get the highest ROI items knocked out before you do the stuff you are addicted to doing. This will help to reduce procrastination of tasks that will have the higher impact.
8:00pm – 9:00pm – Read RSS feeds, Sphinn.com, etc.
Keep up to date with the search community. However you want to do that. I personally use RSS, some podcasts (but the ads on WebmasterRadio.fm drive me so crazy I can’t handle listening to them daily), Sphinn.com, SEOmoz.org, I follow a lot of SEOs on Twitter, and have quite a few people in my IM list that reach out to me from time to time with ‘breaking SEO news’. This industry is constantly changing. Keep up to date with it.
9:00pm – 9:30pm – Getting ready to leave and go home
I know I work longer hours than most and I don’t work this late every night. I find SEO fun and exciting. I find it to be a pastime as well as job. Thus, it’s not something I dread doing. If you look above there is some personal time in there as well (the call to my son, the special projects which is mainly fun for me, etc.). I live 30 minutes away from work and my son lives in another city. This works for me . . . it may not work for you. It may not be something you choose to do.
9:30pm – 10:00pm – Get some food, take care of personal business
I’m a bachelor again. Food is a necessity not a pleasure. I eat whatever when I get home and take a look at the few bills I get (most are built into my rent). Toss most of them aside until I get the online notifications but feel good that I kept the post office employees receiving a check although I’m finding less and less of a need for any type of physical mail other than receipt of goods.
10:00pm – 11:00pm – Watch some form of television, usually online
I watch some TV. Usually on one of the broadcast sites such as Fox.com, NBC.com, or CWTV.com. It’s my way to unwind from the day and let my brain focus on something other than work.
11:00pm – 1:00am – Social Media engagement and management
This is purely for enjoyment for me. Very little work related interactions occur. There are usually a ton of people on Twitter late at night (keep in mind I’m on Central time) and they are considerably more fun to interact with when they are at home versus being at work trying to get things done. If you want to know more about the PEOPLE in the industry, hop on Twitter or Facebook IM at night. If you want to know more about what they do for a living, check them out during the day.
1:00am – 1:30am – Go to bed
Yeah . . . I’m a night owl.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a verbatim day for me. It’s more of a typical week broken down into a day to include most of the important elements. I was also sensitive to when I normally do particular activities and why I choose to do them when I do them. My life could never be this planned and nor would I want it to be. One of the best things about working for Tribune is that I have no idea what event tomorrow may occur that will warrant some SEO work to be done. Maybe no event will occur and I can continue my other SEO tasks. Tomorrow is completely unwritten . . . that’s very cool to me.
I hope you enjoyed this 3,500 word, 7 page blog post.
About Brent D. Payne
Brent D. Payne is the person leading the charge for SEO within Tribune Interactive where he recently doubled the number of unique visitors from search engines (year over year) for the Tribune Interactive properties such as Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times. He works closely with both editorial leads and technical leads within Tribune as well as working with external companies such as search engines, outside consultants, or other enterprise sites. When Brent isn’t doing SEO, he is . . . well, doing SEO. Yeah, it pretty much consumes his life . . . at least when he doesn’t have his 5-year old son.