Who is your favorite Avenger?
Recently I worked with a client to put together their SEO team. The question they posed was: “if we have unlimited resources and want to put together the best team for SEO, who and what do we need?”
Structuring (old and new) internal resources is a common challenge that’s hardly written about. I want to share my experience and knowledge about this topic with you, because it addresses different needs for different positions out there.
With their second movie expected to be one of the best in 2015, let’s use Marvel’s Avengers as an example to determine the type of specialists you need and why they need to work together.
Why is this article for you?
If you have to put together a team yourself, this article will help you bring structure to your approach.
If you are already leading a team of experts, it will provide insights on how you can further improve your team.
If you are working within an SEO team, this post can help you to better understand your role within the team. More importantly, it can provide you with an understanding of the direction you may want to develop your future career into.
If you don’t have the budget for a big SEO team or you now have the opportunity to have even more staff, you can learn how to either consolidate responsibilities or split them up more granularly.
Nick Fury – Head of SEO
Every team needs a Nick Fury, someone who can manage and lead the heroes. It’s the person everyone in the team is reporting to and that typically reports into upper management (head of online marketing, CMO or a VP).
Being the Nick Fury of your team means you need to be the General versus being the foot soldier. What I mean is that you don’t have to be as deep in the weeds as your analyst, content marketing manager or on-page optimization manager. It’s good to have solid knowledge of these topics and if you have developed yourself out of one of these positions – even better! But the core task is to create a high-level strategy that has a positive impact on the business.
The two main tasks of a team leader are:
Coordination is a very broad term. Let me list out the subtasks that might be covered:
- Prioritizing projects and tasks
- Allocating resources to projects
- Bringing different parties together, including internal departments and external clients/vendors
- Empowering your team to improve itself and develop
- Aligning tactics to fit to the businesses overall strategy and goals
Decision-making on the other hand is very clear and can be defined as: “deciding which way to go after evaluating all options”.
Ultimately, it’s about leading and empowering your SEO team, ensuring they perform at their best and can make the right decisions.
Iron Man – Analyst
Every team needs their very own Iron Man (or at least someone who partially does his job)! Without an analyst, it’s like driving a car with your eyes closed – it’s only a matter of time until you crash.
As an analyst, it’s your responsibility to draw conclusions from the data and provide the members of your team with answers. Decisions have to be data-driven, so if you don’t provide the data, good decisions cannot be made.
The two main responsibilities are:
Reports must contain actionable data with crystal clear answers. The data from various sources needs to be connected in one dashboard. However, it’s important to note that depending on the businesses need, one dashboard cannot fit all parties and therefore it must be targeted. At Searchmetrics we are able to provide dashboards for various people including, C-Level, SEO team, Dev-Team, editors and more. All of these reports are targeted and have different meanings.
We typically distinguish between ad-hoc and ongoing reports. An example for the first would be a question such as “how well is our new landing page performing?” While another example for the latter is, “how has our traffic developed over the last three years?” Ad-hoc reports answer an initial one-time question, while ongoing reports serve the purpose to measure success over time.
The analysis needs to be done first in order to create the reports. It’s defined by the collection, segmentation and procession of data. Here’s a taste of the type of metrics that are analyzed:
- User signals (bounce rate, time on site, pages / visit, etc.)
- Leads / revenue per keyword / topic / URL
- Low hanging fruit rankings (#11-20)
- Brand vs. non-brand rankings
- Traffic per social network
Other assets that are analyzed could be:
- Own website(s)
- Social networks
- Search engines
One analysis a lot of people tend to forget about is the server log file analysis. This analysis is tremendously helpful as it provides insights on how search engines crawl your website, i.e. where they get stuck, how long it takes them to crawl, etc. By matching this data with your URL rankings, you can create a very powerful report. (But this topic demands a blog article on its own.)
Every company is different; therefore analysts have slightly different tasks. The main purpose of an Iron Man is the same though: provide insights to make the best decisions for the business.
Hulk – Content Manager
Content is one of the most important assets for a website, therefore you need a Hulk in your SEO Avengers team to optimize, maintain and drive it. Content is not only text, it can be videos, pictures, graphics, whitepapers, PDFs, etc.
Each of these assets have to be created, managed and optimized over time. Nowadays it’s not enough to simply create a piece of content, park it on your website and forget it there. It has to constantly be optimized and you need to understand how users like and interact with it in order to drive traffic and revenue.
A content manager needs to have different touch points with the:
- Social Media manager
- On-Page Manager
- Media manager
- Editorial team
Of course someone has to produce the content and in most cases it’s too much for the content manager to do everything by him or herself. It’s the content managers task to coordinate the editorial team, guest bloggers and other content producers. The produced content needs to also be reviewed (to a manageable degree) and analyzed for search engine relevance (not to say that content is for search engines only, but the best content has to be found).
It makes sense to work closely together with the responsible person for social media, Black Widow maybe ;-), to promote new and existing content, find out how and if content is shared on social networks and how to streamline it by analyzing how people talk about it and what they think. It’s not an easy task, but if you’re able to work closely together and set up processes, you can make your content better than anyone else’s.
Working together with the On-Page manager (Captain America), the Hulk of your team has to figure out which topic / keywords are supposed to rank for which URL. This is a crucial process that never ends, but can make a site really successful when done right. A part of that is also identifying new topics in order to grow, of course after you’ve covered all obvious topics for your business.
An important tool of a content manager is a content calendar. On it, all recurring events that either impacts the general population (holidays like Christmas, world wide events like the Fifa World Cup) or the industry (like the WWDC) should be listed. This allows you to create content in advance and rank for related keywords/topics.
I don’t want to talk about content marketing too much as striving to provide the best content overlaps with content marketing. However, there is still a part of initiating campaigns that have to be targeted, seeded and monitored. This is also part of the content manager’s job. He needs to leverage touch points with the creative department for the implementation and the analyst (Iron Man) for input and inspiration.
Tip: Don’t forget internationalization: managing content in different languages and for different countries can become a big part of a content manager’s work. If you want to be successful, you can’t just Google Translate.
Captain America – On-Page Manager
The part of Captain America is also the most technical part of SEO. With good teamwork between Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man can you and they perform the best.
Tasks of the On-Page Manager are to coordinate:
- Regular site audits
- Crawls of all kinds (site-wide, folders, test environments)
- Optimization of meta-data
- Implementation and review of markup
- Management and optimization of site architecture:
- Internal linking
- Status codes
- Hierarchy of pages
- Backlink / Link juice management
- Site speed optimization
- Mobile version of the site
One major responsibility is the coordination of the dev-team. It’s often a challenge, but successful SEO demands figuring this out. A certain share of developer resources has to be attributed to SEO, processes have to be managed well and an emphasis on agility and flexibility has to be made. In the best case, the On-Page manager has access to the CMS and can influence / change certain parameters by themselves (meta-data, content, media).
Another responsibility is conducting regular site audits and crawls, which can overlap i.e. figuring out weaknesses within site that decrease user experience and search engine accessibility. I recommend to audit the entire website at least once every few months and crawl every big release on a test environment. Hunt for problematic status codes, especially 4xx, 5xx, 302s and redirect chains.
Backlink management is another big chunk of responsibility the On-Page manager has to carry. It’s not focused on getting new backlinks for the site, but to:
- Determine which pages need more backlinks and provide this information to the content manager to plan accordingly
- Analyze how the current incoming link juice is spread across the site and either adjust incoming links (e.g. change the target URL) or the site structure
- Analyze the backlink profile on a regular basis to ensure you are not in danger of penalties or algorithm updates
Captain America also has to maintain and optimize the mobile version of the site based on information from the Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and server log file analysis. It’s a great touch point to exchange data with Iron Man in order to find the right spots to fix. User signals lead the way here.
If the Captain America of your team does not get information from Iron Man (Analyst), like analytics on traffic, he cannot optimize the sites architecture. If he doesn’t get input from the content manager, he cannot fully optimize URLs. See where I’m taking this? Teamwork! You can only dominate a market when all parts of the SEO team function together. Tools to support this are regular meetings and project management tools like Atlassian JIRA.
Also, do not forget one of the most critical parts of SEO: staying up to date and develop oneself. Nick Fury has to ensure that staff is constantly challenged, but also get’s the resources to develop themselves and stay up to date by reading reports, like the Ranking Factors study and attending conferences.