Several years ago, I was tasked with building an enterprise-level search marketing team for a top online retailer. Because of the lessons learned and results achieved, I want to pass this intel on to those tasked with creating a search marketing team from scratch.
Your Foundation: The Search Guru
My first recommendation is to start out with an organic search guru, an experienced person specializing in organic search.
Search gurus are those with a long-standing history of getting results and making good things happen. You’re going for a knowledge-transfer expert, not a permanent employee. The guru may cost 4x the salary of an employee, but s/he can earn you 150% YoY increase in revenue.
You can potentially receive a 600:1 ROI on your guru — that is, for each $1 you spend, you’ll bring in $600 — so don’t worry about the cost. It’s trivial in the long run.
Pay the guru half in salary and half in performance-based bonus. Give them top-down support and tell your executive staff to back off, listen to the guru, do what the guru says and leave their egos at the door.
This isn’t about threatening anyone’s career or compensation. Hopefully, the guru will be making more than most of the executive staff. But that should only happen due to performance bonuses — those based on significantly increased revenue, which means you and others will look like rock stars.
Make sure you have a real organic search guru and not a fake. Real gurus use their network of connections to get things done, and they will admit to you upfront that they don’t know it all. But they know what needs to be done and who to ask. They don’t do the actual work — they guide and direct.
Gurus guide other experts in their field to do the work. A real guru is humble and knows how to “get-along and go-along.” Give your guru full access to everyone in the organization; don’t isolate or limit your guru to certain segments of the business. Let the guru lurk and browse wherever he or she wants. Plan on keeping your guru for at least 2-5 years.
Assign A Director Of Search
Next, pick a good Director of Search — preferably a person from within the organization who intimately understands the business model and is coachable. This person should be capable of managing people in all three segments of Search: SEO, Paid Search and Social Media. Yes, Social Media.
Pick or hire a Director who works well with other departments such as Rich Media, Website, IT, Branding, Analytics, and Reporting, as well as the Marketing VPs and the CTO. This person should also have a good sense of humor — they’ll need it!
Set up your guru to work under a Marketing SVP, the decision maker who signs the vendor checks. Make sure this SVP can leave his or her ego at the door and is fully capable of supporting the guru.
Put the Director of Search under the same Marketing SVP and ask the guru to work directly with the Director and SVP — it’s a threesome that’s hard to beat. These three people will move the Search and SEO revenue needle month-over-month and year-over-year.
Get Reporting Down
First things first: get your reporting down. Make sure you have branded and non-branded organic search revenue separated in your reporting. Obviously, Paid Search and Social Media will be in separate columns, too.
Set your guru’s bonuses and expectations on non-branded organic search revenue (SEO revenue). Provide everyone with daily numbers and results for the previous 24-hour period. Also weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual results.
Everyone needs to see the big picture as well as the day-to-day ups and downs. Don’t hide your data — open it up for everyone in-house to see every day. This is what will keep them moving forward and accountable.
Get Your Departments In Sync With Search
With your core management-level leaders in place — the guru, the SVP and the Director of Search — you’re ready to link together with all your various departments. Department structures may differ somewhat from company to company; however, it boils down to a few basics in any organization. Someone is in charge of the following segments of the business, and they all need to be in sync with Search:
Network Operations Center
Physical storefront counterparts, if any
Everyone in the organization must be aware of your Search Department and what Search does.
With core management, reporting and Search in sync with everyone in the organization, you’re ready to begin building your team of managers and analysts.
Your Managers Are The Workhorses
Hire your managers; you’ll want one each for SEO, Paid Search and Social Media. Managers will report to the Director of Search and be directly responsible for all the analysts on their team. Managers are multitaskers; they both manage their team and do the day-to-day tactical work.
Your managers must be veterans at planning and executing online marketing campaigns; they should possess a strong working knowledge of best practices and good people skills.
Theses are very important people in the organization. Pay them well and reward them with acknowledgement and kudos every time you can. Your managers are the workhorses — they get the job done.
Rounding Out The Department
Depending on the depth and breadth of the organization, it’s possible each manager may need up to five analysts working under them to accomplish goals on a day-to-day basis. In addition, one Intern for each SEO, Paid Search and Social Media section is a good idea.
Interns can move up the ladder as those above them move up or leave. Interns allow for the quick replacement of the skills needed to fulfill tactical goals and objectives. Always keep a few good interns employed to become your next up-and-coming analyst or manager.
Obviously, the number of personnel mentioned above is flexible, depending on the size of the organization. However, with a similar structure in place you’ll have all the essentials covered to manage even the largest of enterprise search departments.
Digging Deeper: Essentials For The SEO Team
The above covers all the basics for putting together your online marketing department. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each team within the department (SEO, Social and Paid Search).
Image via Shutterstock
The essentials for SEO include all the technical and editorial factors that can hinder your website’s rankings in the search engines. This includes but is not limited to the following list of SEO best practices:
Link audits and development
Keyword discovery/paid search testing/optimization
Title elements, meta data
Semantic markup, RDFa, microdata
Hostname DNS, site and page load speed
Internal linking and redirects
URI structure, broken links and dead-end pages
Anchor text, image optimization
Duplicate content, low word count
Robots.txt, session IDs, server and crawl errors
Local, mobile and social best practices
Store locator conversion tools, functionality
Part I: Recap
To summarize, if you want to put together a first class, in-house SEO team, you can do it quickly by hiring an SEO guru who understands the big picture.
With his or her track record, this search expert will not only hire and organize your search team for you, but will increase revenue and ROI with a team that can function optimally and interact smoothly with top level management. Not to worry about the cost of these services as they will pay for themselves — organic search is a highly profitable source of relevant traffic.
In my next column, I’ll continue this series by covering the essentials for paid search and social media, as well as guidelines for hiring third-party vendors.