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Framework O | SEO Tips for Product Managers, CMOs, and Executives
12 minutes | Jul 23, 2019
01: How to “Quick Launch” Your SEO Channel without an In-House Team
Your CEO comes to you and says “Aye! we should do SEO this quarter!” But you don’t have an in-house SEO expert to help you plan, forecast, and launch your SEO channel…what do you do? In this podcast we explore the pros and cons of the different ways our clients launch their SEO channels without in-house SEO help Show Notes: • Enterprise SEO agency pros & cons > [01:00] • In-house specialist pros & cons [01:45] • General project manager pros & cons [02:20 • SEO freelancer pros & cons [03:15] • Bonus: Option #5 [04:30] Transcription Welcome to the first episode. Hello my friends, welcome to the first episode of Framework O podcast show. I’m your host, Cleo Kirkland. I’ve been doing SEO for the last 12 years. Bay Area resident. Been working with a lot of startups here in the Bay Area, helping them rank for cheap flights, life insurance, handyman in Bay Area, handyman in New York. You name it, I probably tried to rank for it. I do a lot of work on the product and project management side of SEOs, working directly with CEOs, CMOs, product leaders, and marketing leaders, to take their campaigns from zero to one. How do they think about hiring their first internal employees, onboarding vendors, creating internal processes. Basically taking whatever their vision of the company is for the next two years and translating that into SEO rankings. This podcast is really a distillation of all of our my learnings in the past 12 years, and each episode is micro short. You’re going to get a little tip and a little trick to help you scale. In this first episode, I wanted to talk about one of the most frequently asked questions I get from my clients, which is, “Hey yo Cleo!” Because sometimes you know, they talk like that, I guess. “How do we think about, you know, testing and launching our SEO campaign this quarter, if we don’t currently have an in-house SEO?“ And that’s a great question because SEO is a project, you really have to work across so many teams to drive the project forward and move the needle. So, what do you do when you don’t have that person in-house who you can trust to launch this test? And I wanted to go over four common ways of starting that my clients have used, and give a recommendation. So, without further ado, OPTION 1) Hire an Enterprise SEO Agency Pros: You have an expert at your fingertips. The folks at Merkle, Ayima, etc are really, really good SEOs. I know a lot of them personally and they are just really smart, and They also have economies of scale. So, if you don’t have a social team, if you don’t have an email team, and that’s important for your SEO campaign that you’ve created, then they could give you those resources and help you scale really quickly. So, overall, this is a great way to start, if you have a lot of rankings to protect, and you’re in a competitive vertical where you need that specific SEO experience in that vertical, they probably have someone who has that experience on their team. Cons: On the negative side, it’s often more expensive per hour. Believe it or not, they’re usually less responsive, they have like weekly and monthly meetings. And often, although the SEO, the VP of SEO is really smart and really great, you’re usually going to be working with a generalist or account executive. So if you have a burning question right away, they’re going to probably forward that question back up to the VP of sales, but more often than not, another SEO specialist, who then will come back with a question, so it creates a little bit of a communication gap. So, this is not a great strategy if your startup is very nimble and you don’t have a large organization and you can drive the needle really quickly with projects, this may not be the best bet for you. OPTION 2) Hire a full-time SEO specialist Pros: You have access to this, expert, eight to 10 hours a day at your fingertips, they’re more invested in the long-term. So with any agency, there’s like this termination window that they try to protect. So, if it’s a 90-day termination window, you’re going to see that agency really care about your project until 90 days are up, and then maybe they’re just focused on other clients because they got you for a retainer for the next year or two. With an in-house person, they invest every four years, but it’s termination at will. So, they’re going to invest in the short-term and medium strategies to move the needle, but also, they’re going to create those strategies that also work on the long-term, and they have an opportunity to grow with you. So, if you’re sure that SEO is your channel that you want to grow for the next four years, great way to start. Cons: It is really hard to hire right. If you talk to enough CMOs, they’ll all say, like, “It’s hard to tell whether the SEO success was a function of the company just being a rocket ship, or the SEO getting in and hustling.” It’s hard to know that within a short interview. Also, if you’re trying to launch this test, this channel, in this quarter, it may not be the right start, because by the time you hire right and onboard the SEO, and by the time they do their audit and all that, because that’s usually how you start a campaign, your quarter could be looking at you in the rear-view mirror. And then, although it’s not a short-term strategy, it is like a long-term full-time commitment. Hiring anyone full-time is, you know, there’s additional costs to that, and letting them go within a short period of time is definitely a morale decliner, and it’ll hurt the company’s morale. So, it’s not a great way to start if you’re not sure about the long-term potential of SEO as a channel for the company. OPTION 3) Hire a Generalist Project Manager and teach them SEO A lot of CMOs and CEOs wish this strategy were as easy as it is. Pros: On the positive side, these generalists are great at other channels. So usually, like tangential channel, like CRO, or sometimes content marketing, so they might be a great… They can handle that other channel, then start launching the SEO campaigns. So this is great if you’re not sure about SEO as a channel long-term, but you are sure about some of these tangential channels. Cons: On the negative side, they’re not that deep SEO expert. And so, if you have a lot of rankings to protect, they might make a mistake that could cost you a lot of rankings. Or, if you’re in a competitive vertical and you want to test SEO, they may not have enough nuance, they may not know enough about the nuance of SEO, applying best practices for particular verticals, to really test that channel to see if it’s something that you can grow for your company. OPTION 4) Hire a freelancer to start. Pros: On the positive side, expert level SEO advice, cheaper than an agency, more flexible arrangement, and usually you’ll be dealing with that freelancer, not like a generalist or their direct report or something like that. On the negative side, and this is a big negative, I was a freelancer, full disclosure, but I’ll say this, and I didn’t do this kind of… I don’t think I had this problem for my clients, but what is the long-term relationship going to be? What if they take a job somewhere else? Then you’re stuck, and you’re going to have to rely on them to hand off the work. Cons: Freelancers don’t hand off work well, and may try to obfuscate their work so you can’t get ride of them. Should you decide to scale down SEO or scale it up, they want to have a hand in that. So, that creates an execution challenge for you in the long-term, and they also might optimize for short-term tactics like an agency would, so that they can move the needle very quickly, and then long-term, who knows if those strategies will hold. None of these are bad ways to start, it’s just about picking the right strategy to test, to launch a channel for you. And I want to offer another option, BONUS: OPTION 5) Start with Options 1 – 4 and add a small agency Pros: Small agencies will work hard to fill in the gaps, and mitigate the negatives for any of these other options. How they help Option 1) So, let’s say you start with the big agency option number one, a enterprise SEO agency. Well, this smaller agency could be the one responsible for checking their work, making sure that they’re doing the work that’s going to help move the needle for the client. They could be managing this enterprise agency’s economies of scale, because often the smaller agencies don’t have access to such scale. How they help Option 2) If you have an in-house SEO to start, one of the problems for an in-house SEO is they have to work across multiple teams and they probably are going to need a lot of vendors, a lot of help to drive the project forward. Well, this small agency could fill in the gaps where this specialist is not able to do. So, if the specialist is great at SEO analysis but they don’t really have a way to execute content at scale, this agency could kind of function as an in-house team, hiring vendors and doing that kind of work, until they’re ready to hand off the work to the in-house specialist. How they help Option 3) For the option number three, where you hire a general project manager, they could be the SEO expert for that general project manager. How they help Option 4) And option number four, the problem with freelancers is really that long-term view, and with a smaller agency, I think of them more like a union of freelancers, and you’ll usually work with the expert rather than like a generalist. So, they’re more concerned about their reputation than maybe a single freelancer would be. So, they’re more likely to make work scalable and more handoffable, so they could manage your freelancers, is probably a good way to work with a smaller agency. But, ultimately, if you get a smaller agency involved with any of your setups, or just maybe even starting with the smaller agency and getting their advice, it’s a good way to start your SEO channel, because they’re flexible, they’re usually hungry, and they can really bridge the gap between any of these options. So, if you find an agency that is small and maybe you’d be one of their biggest clients, this is usually a great way to start your SEO campaign. Final word on Small AgenciesBut with that said, it is really hard to hire right, in terms of finding that small agency that can be your champion, that will be flexible, and not kind of like cheat you or hurt you or whatever. Same thing as it is with an in-house specialist or a freelancer. There’s just less references that they have compared to an enterprise SEO agency. So there’s some risks. So with that, we’d like to say two things. One, our company, Framework O, is a small agency, and we’re more like a union of freelancers. We manage a bunch of freelancers at the highest and lowest levels, to help our clients scale their organic campaign. So, email marketing, content marketing, freelance writers, technical SEO specialists, we have them all, and we use them and we’ll pay them and manage them on your behalf. Second recommendation is a site called getcredo.com. It is the best resource in terms of vetting small agencies, whether it’s just organic marketing, which is all we do right now, or paid, or any other kind of marketing that you have, whether it’s PR, whatever it is. Get Credo is a great resource. It’s run by a man named John Doherty, prolific SEO and speaker, and I got to know him here in the Bay Area. I can definitely vouch that this person really, really knows what they’re talking about, and he’s a pleasure to work with if you get a chance to work with him. So, that’s all the tips we have for this episode. Until the next time, y’all. The post 01: How to “Quick Launch” Your SEO Channel without an In-House Team appeared first on FrameworkO.
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