When you're an in-house SEO, much of your success is dependent on the information you dig up and how you use it.
"I feel like a detective" said my client two days into intake discussions with IT. We're doing a customized SEO training program that involves understanding how the development process works so that the information can be tailored to identify key deliverables and where SEO needs to be inserted in the development life cycle. Everywhere we turn, new deliverables, opposition and/or steps in the life cycle arise.
Much of what happens between idea to launch is a mystery to in-house SEOs who typically sit in the marketing department. Instead, what you need to do is constantly wear the detective hat, or at the very least, keep it in your back pocket at all times.
Whenever you interact with someone from IT and they talk about what they are working on, listen for buzz words - documentation names, project deliverables, etc. so that you can poke around to find out if it's something that you need to be a part of.
If you have the chance, and especially when you start SEO and get a renewed interest in SEO, meet with each team involved in the website to understand:
1. Their role in a project, their key areas of interest
2. What meetings they attend
3. What deliverables they create or contribute to
Armed with this knowledge, you can begin to understand where SEO requirements will need to be incorporated.
Just because you have these "intake" discussions or interviews, bear in mind that you may actually get a complete picture. Experience has shown that it's a never ending quest to understand what's happening with IT - it's like an onion, everywhere you look there is a new layer to peel, and on top of that their processes evolve and change over time, adding to the challenge.
One would think that you could tap a single person to get this information, but I find this to be the case only for small organizations. When it comes bigger brands with large IT departments that ooze red tape and corporate politics, it's surprising that no one person seems to know the entire life cycle beginning to end - with all of its intricacies that occur within each role. Because SEO can go south with one wrong turn in each department, it's in your best interest to take the time to figure it all out.
Detective work in practice: When in-house, I was everywhere in the company and talking to as many people as possible to figure out intricacies of a website release. I was continuously surprised at how many actions and deliverables people were not aware that were happening on any given project. At one company, it took over a year to get the full picture, and once I had it, it was extremely powerful - both in attaining respect, but also in getting looped into the right meetings, discussions and deliverables.
When you're an in-house SEO, it's vital that you understand how a project goes from idea to launch, which means you need to keep your detective hat at an arms reach at all times because it is often the little that will make you or cost you thousands, or even millions, of dollars.
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