The day in the life of an in-house SEO at Tribune
By Brent D. Payne
[Andy’s note: This is a long, but interesting post. So, we’ll divide it up and you’ll get to read the second part of Brent’s day after lunch]
This year there was a session at SMX East about the day in the life of an in-house SEO. Most of the session can be summed up in the following bullet points.
- You need upper management buy-in.
- You need to evangelize/train
- Get involved in several areas of the development process
- Reporting/analytics and explaining the value of yourself and SEO
- Make really cool videos like this one:
While the session was interesting and wildly entertaining thanks mainly to Laura’s video, I didn’t hear the finer details that I would’ve liked to have heard.
So . . . I am going to attempt to get more detailed regarding a typical day with finer details.
7:00am – 8:00am – Hit the snooze button
I’m aware this is not the most effective way to obtain sleep but it’s a habit for me that I can’t seem to break. Plus the Bose Alarm Clock radio makes it just too easy to hit snooze.
8:00am – 8:30am – Roll-over to check emails, Twitters, Facebooks, etc. from the previous night
Yes, I sleep with my laptop. I am aware that it is pretty nerdy. It’s just really convenient for me to slowly wake up by reading emails, Tweets, Facebook messages, and very important RSS feeds as I slowly wake up in the morning.
8:30am – 9:00am – Get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, walk to work
I work literally a block from where I live so the commute takes between 5 – 7 minutes depending on how long I have to wait for the elevator. This makes it possible for me to be physically working more hours as I don’t need to ‘commute’ to work.
9:00am – 9:30am – Check the previous day’s stats
The key metric I am currently tracking and the key metric that I am being held responsible for is number of unique visitors from search engines. I check this number every morning in order to keep me focused on the number and to see any disaster situations or massive spikes that we can manage appropriately. I highly recommend that all in-house SEOs make it a routine to check their core metrics everyday and preferably at the beginning of the day to keep yourself focus on those key metrics throughout the day.
9:30am – 10:00am – Call out the big wins to the individual business owners or markets.
I make sure I do this every day as well. It is key to let people know about the wins they created in SEO. It keeps them excited about SEO and when you need them to do something that may be difficult or may ‘break the rules’ they are more likely to do it for you because they trust you and the recommendations that you may have given them previously that created a win in SEO.
I feel it is very important to mention their specific wins to an audience that may also help them feel as if you are helping them look good to their peers, their bosses, or to the executives. Plus, when you are praising them often and to the right audience, it makes it easier for them to accept criticism when that needs to occur (and that always needs to occur as they learn more and more about SEO).
10:00am – 10:30am – Have an informal SEO update/planning session with a tech team member
Keep the meeting informal. The session mentioned a scrum meeting and that seems to work well too. The goal is to have contact with your tech team every day. Keeping it informal will keep them relaxed and sharing information with you. Be sure NOT to pounce all over them if they share in passing something that is an SEO issue. Make a mental note of it and mentioned it later that day or during the next time you speak. This will keep them open with you. After all, nobody likes to be attacked and I have found that tech teams dislike it more than most.
10:30am – 11:00am – Conduct keyword research and compare the research to content opportunities
You need to do this every day. It may seem a bit excessive at first but it turns out to be one of the best ways to continually grow your search engine optimization visits. Most people do not enjoy keyword research (there’s no easy way to do it) so doing it in small chunks of time will make it less dreadful and doing it daily will keep you on the cutting-edge of new opportunities that your competitors will probably notice weeks later (if at all).
11:00am – 11:30am – Make changes to content or contact editorial to create content for SEO
All the keyword research in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t take action on it. As soon as you identify an opportunity, make the effort to make the opportunity a win. Not only will this keep you more motivated to do keyword research more often, but it will keep your interactions with your content producers frequent. I’ve found that having a frequent interaction with content producers creates a situation wherein they will brain storm for opportunities and wins that I had no clue existed.
It’s important to remember that you TOO can change or create content. If you don’t currently have access to make content changes or the ability to create content (hint: have others edit your work to help content producer buy-in), then get the access needed to do so. While you need a team of people that know what to do in the field, the number of wins that can be created by doing some things yourself are still significant—especially in situations where time-to-market is important (i.e. breaking news, new product announcements, etc.)
11:30am – 12:00pm – Check rankings for targeted ‘Google Page Two’ results to see any movements
I have a full list of terms that I’ve identified as page two results on Google (i.e. Barack Obama, which currently has a core Google SER position of #12) that I am constantly working with editorial, technology, marketing, and the social media teams on to move to the front page of Google. Remember 80% or so of people only look at the first page of Google. Remember to do your homework regarding search volume though. You don’t want to chase after a term that’s not worth the eyeballs in the long run. Also, with all of Google’s personalization, geolocation, and other factors mucking up the results. You’ll want to make sure you logout of Google and watch the upper right hand corner for that little personalization messaging and make sure you look at the core SERPs only by opting out of the fancy search enhancements.
12:00pm – 12:30pm – Social Media engagement on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Jump into the conversations going on in social media. By noon (central) the world is awake and chit chatting about all sorts of stuff. Engage in the conversation. If you aren’t already on Twitter, Facebook, etc. go do it now. Go follow some people (I’m @BrentDPayne, and most Twitter users are slowly moving to their full names as their Twitter handles). If you can’t think of a group of people to follow, start by making a list of just five people you want to follow and then go follow some of the people that are following them. At the very least you’ll have a shared interest between you by the mere fact you’re both interested in following the same person. Twitter mainly non-business things but toss in a business use once in a while too. I usually keep it around 10% business and the rest just random personal things. Remember people that are following you are mainly interested in you and what you are interested in versus what company you work for and what your company goals may be.
12:30pm – 1:00pm – Link building outreach (often via social media and always via my network)
Oh, the dreaded link building. It’s never fun to ask people for links. It seems so intrusive. I like to start with link building opportunities within my network. For Tribune that means a plethora of nearly 50 domains (yeah, I’m spoiled) but I’ve worked for plenty of smaller companies and there are lots of opportunities that exist for those companies too. Think about your affiliates. Think about your RSS subscribers. Think about ways to utilize your email subscribers. The goal is to be indirect in most mediums. For example, I’m not going to drop a suggestion for you, the reader, to link to one of my targeted pages because that would just be bad form and may actually backfire on me. Again, indirect is usually better than direct. Some exceptions may be asking friends in the industry for links, retweets, or Facebook application accepts. Nobody likes a spammer but most people do like to be helpful.
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.