Working with the in-house team
Does this dialogue sound familiar to you? Client: Meet [IT guy name], our IT guy. He'll be implementing the changes you recommend. You: Hi, [IT guy name]. Pleased to meet you. it Guy: Yeah. I know SEO, too. It's not hard.
That conversation or some version of it happens all the time. Very nearly every it person, Web developer, programmer or e-com manager I've met knows something about SEO and they generally want to assert that as soon as the outside help is brought in. About half the time, it's cool and they're happy to work with you, but the other half is an adversarial relationship. Why is it like this and how do you deal with it?
My personal, unresearched, scientifically unfounded, statistically unsupported theory is that these people feel threatened by the presence of an outside agency. Maybe they think their job is going to be made redundant. Or maybe they think they're going to get in some sort of trouble for not having done a good enough job on the SEO. After all, why has an agency been hired for seo if someone in-house is already an SEO expert? Let me assure all you in-house folks that 99 percent of the time none of this is true. So relax. You and I can be best friends and this relationship can benefit both of us.
As the consultant on the outside of the company, I need allies on the inside to get things done. Sure, I've got one of the bigwigs in my corner. It's how I got the gig. This is a CMO, vice president of e-com or some such person, who is largely occupied with strategic, long-range plans and knows that SEO is part of that. These folks are great for leading the charge and inspiring people with the vision of the money to be made, but they don't work on the Web site. I need a great relationship with someone that holds the keys to the code. In all my time in this business, I've never worked directly on a client's Web site.
How do you foster this relationship? It's simple, really. Treat your allies right. Got a weekly status call? Include them. Taking your client out for drinks and dinner? Include IT. Christmas gifts headed to clients? Send an extra bottle of the good stuff to the IT department, as well. Discussing the success of a campaign? Thank the IT folks in front of the boss: "We couldn't have done it without the great turnaround time ..."
Touchy-feely stuff aside, there is another way you can help out IT and build that relationship. Be specific. I've written previously that the No. 1 reason SEO fails is because of lack of execution. There are a bunch of reasons for execution failure, but the important one here is lack of clear instruction and details. Don't tell the developers to "fix the title tags"; either send them the exact title tags you want or pseudo- code the formula you'd like to use for dynamic population. Make their jobs as easy as possible. Have you ever met a development team that was bored or didn't have 6-12 months of work already on the roadmap? Fitting SEO into that is hard.
As consultants, we are outsiders who have been hired because we are seo experts, but it can't stop there. We need to be project managers, client services specialists, educators and business partners. It's the only way it all works.