the current state of search identity, management, & direction with Aleyda Solis

Ahoy, Musers riding the modern currents of search!  (May I call you “Musers”?)

Sticks and stones are found in the woods, but what’s in a name?

For instance, do you practice SEO?  Are you an SEO?

The term is difficult to define, and it’s hard to label which activities constitute “doing SEO” and which do not.

Current states of search identity and direction are “hot” topics.

The industry asks/ponders…

Where are the currents of search directing us as practitioners?

How can we best navigate online marketing waters, applying best practices and optimizing client endeavors?

How have charted routes changed among the fickle seas of search and online marketing?

Should independent peers and entities be used as outsource outlets?

What’s best to call practitioners and practices, not only to communicate as peers, but with potential and current clients?

James Agate recently introduced a number of  problems/challenges related to SEO,

I’ve invited discussion in Goolge+ posts related to some of the above topics.  In relating with peers and reading industry literature, the issues all seem timely and in need of wide address.

Coincidentally, a number of  questions were unleashed on myself and fellow industry dogs, Sean Revell, Chris Dyson, Nick Eubanks, Don Rhoades, and Pete Attia.

(I’m not sure what “Mr.” name I’d select, but I do like pastels and argyle socks in the tech space.)

Chris Dyson headed the project, so color him as the one to be holding that bag of informational booty.

Back to the present reservoir of knowledge at hand.  I wanted to consult someone who could help sort the above questions out, someone who addresses the industry from a managerial perspective.

Such needs called for a transcontinental email quest.

My email traveled all the way to Spain, greeted and granted with hospitality by peer, Aleyda Solis.

You may know Aleyda from her SEO consultation blog, SEOmoz posts and interaction, and keen contribution to inbound.org. (*cough* Solis owns us all in number of submissions.)

Moreover, I extremely enjoyed Aleyda’s SEO project management presentation at this year’s Mozcon.  (I’m not the only one who mentioned such.)

I thought asking Aleyda questions on the current state of search and SEO, after Panda/Penguin and amid the changing landscape of link building philosophy/application, would quench reader thirst for current industry discussion and knowledge.

So without further 80′s retro ado, I bring to you a Q & A with the most knowledgeable Aleyda Solis.

(Thank you very much for your time, Aleyda.)

Anthony Pensabene

- Did Google modifications (Panda/Penguin) change the structure of SEO departments? If so, please mention integral roles within these departments (writer, link builder, outreach, etc.)

Aleyda Solis

Yes, it is normal that our focus and activities evolve along with Google’s search capabilities.

If one has a well balanced SEO strategy, this evolution shouldn’t have been dramatically caused by a specific update though, but along the way following new trends thanks to constant testing and identification of opportunities.

For example:

-for technical On-Page SEO, using Schema’s microdata in HTML to declare some content or implementing Google’s Authorship.

- for Link Builders, working along copywriters to identify opportunities to promote the produced content, create new one or

- for Social Media managers, making the most of the visibility that can be obtained with Google+

Nonetheless, as we all know, this was not the case for all of us, and we saw entire businesses or sites suffering and even closing by just focusing on taking advantage of Google’s algorithm vulnerabilities to rank quicker.

After Panda and especially Penguin, we’ve seen how Content Marketing has started to take more and more into consideration, not only in regard to On-Page but also link building strategy, in the SEO process.

There’s a call for doing #RCS in order to attract natural links, etc. In this sense, I think that the two roles that have been affected the most are the ones focused on creating the content and building links … and the relationship between these two.

Anthony Pensabene

- Link builders (specifically) have been influenced by Penguin.  Give some suggestions as to how to restructure a link building department or re-train link builders.

Aleyda Solis

The first things to ask are:

- what were the qualifications we previously looked for in our link builders?

- what were the type of activities we asked them to do?

- how did we train them to do tasks and what resources did we provide to develop their work?

Are these reasonably compatible to what they need to do now?

It all depends on what you previously had! It can be just an evolution or refocus of responsibilities or a call for a team to start from scratch.

Anthony Pensabene

- Modified methods also mean different labels.  Do you have any thoughts regarding what SEO departments should be labeled? (inbound marketers? Marketers? SEO consultants?)

Aleyda Solis

I like the term “SEO” since is already established although I know there are strong reasons to evolve into a more “inclusive” name that better define us and also creates some distance from the “spammy” connotations (unfortunately) SEO has for people who have suffered from black hat practices.

Nonetheless, I think the “rebranding” won’t have the desired effect if SEOs (together as an industry) don’t really work hard to focus on creating value through consistent strategies to our clients…

Otherwise, we will fall again into the same problem soon in the future. This is for me the most fundamental aspect: We need to start taking our activities more seriously and definitely move away from the tactics focused on “gaming the system.”

Anthony Pensabene

- Outsourcing is an option for SEO departments.  What are your views on outsourcing in general?  Are certain services (writing)  easier to outsource?

Aleyda Solis

I have seen both successful and unsuccessful situations. It all really depends on the relationship between the company and the SEO specialist or agency: the communication flow, the flexibility provided to implement changes, the resources that are allocated, besides the capacity of the SEO to provide the required results of course.

It’s, as you comment, far easier for some type of activities that don’t need a deep understanding of the company’s business or site along with a complex coordination to be implemented.

Nonetheless, if the circumstances are the right ones and there is a willingness of collaboration, it can be the best option for many companies that cannot have their own SEO department.

Anthony Pensabene

- What are two tips on time management SEO managers need to know?

Aleyda Solis

1. Stop focusing on the “amount” of time spent on a client and think about the time “ROI.”  With this, I mean that you need to worry less about the “exact” amount of time invested on a client and think that maybe with only 3 “extra” hours you will achieve qualitatively superior results.

2. Good communication and coordination is key to maximizing time. If your present working processes and tools don´t let you to communicate and coordinate smoothly, you need to update them!

Anthony Pensabene

- Do you have any unique team building tips for small to mid-size SEO departments?

Aleyda Solis

Make the most out of the “flexibility” that a small team can give you.  When you’re small, you will be more likely to have people on your team that have more than one role.  It’s the perfect opportunity for them to learn from the different aspects of the SEO process, and verify which activities they would like to focus on most in the future.

If you work in small or mid-size SEO departments, don´t fall into the temptation of not establishing a good workflow, communication and collaboration mechanism just because your team is “small,” and you don´t need it at the time.

Once you start growing, it will be much more difficult to do it. The best way to start these processes is to have a brainstorm with the team, identify what is working and what´s not, and ask them to propose alternatives

In doing things like this, the solution will not be only yours, but something that belongs to everybody, and it will be an additional reason of why the team will adopt it more easily.

———————————————————————————————————

So what do you think?  How would you address my questions, Musers?

Let’s give Aleyda a round of applause for being on the show.  Thanks again, Aleyda!

I do have further questions in mind related to how contractors/independents and employees are treated.

Keep your eyes peeled  for when I raise the new-Muse-post flag upon the Twitter seas next.

Until then, I wish you smooth sailing, friends.

PS – You’ll notice the call-to-action, “inspire further thought…” colored in crimson below.  It doesn’t bite (to date); I do encourage;

I even

you to comment.

In fact, it just might make my entire day’s cruise.  Imagine that, making a full-grown, bearded, blogger-pirate man’s day with one comment :) .

5 thoughts on “the current state of search identity, management, & direction with Aleyda Solis

  1. Thanks for that, pretty interesting stuff. I see this quote though:

    “1. Stop focusing on the “amount” of time spent on a client and think about the time “ROI.” With this, I mean that you need to worry less about the “exact” amount of time invested on a client and think that maybe with only 3 “extra” hours you will achieve qualitatively superior results.”

    and I agree in principle. I suspect, however, that many people may find they have managers who have issues with this. How can you persuade people to increase budgets if they are getting more than they are paying for already? I suppose the theoretical response is that we would out-work an increased budget also. Is that practical?

    It’s not my job right now to worry about that sort of thing, but I do wonder.

    • Thank you for reading, sir. I don’t want to speak for Aleyda. I took the suggestion as one to focus on tasks at hand rather than billing x amount of hours/resources devoted toward a project, thinking about how those hours are filled rather than how many there are.

      I definitely celebrate individual strategies, but I am one person. A need for scaled processes may be a need for some agency operations perhaps. Thanks again.

    • Hi Iain! Thank you for your question :) Is what Anthony commented before and the fact that sometimes we try to “quantify” and measure our work dedicated to a project by the amount of time we spend in every task instead of being flexible to invest more or less time in one of different aspects of the project in dependence of the necessities or opportunities that may arise at some point that are simply too difficult to foresee and that can provide an excellent situation to improve the expected results. Sometimes is true that we will need to invest a couple of more hours, but instead of thinking about how I’m giving two extra hours I might see it as with this two extra hours I should get far better results and a point to expand the client SEO investment, for example. So it’s about of being flexible and identify this type of win-win situations in the SEO process by going the extra-mile!

  2. ” Stop focusing on the “amount” of time spent on a client and think about the time “ROI.” With this, I mean that you need to worry less about the “exact” amount of time invested on a client and think that maybe with only 3 “extra” hours you will achieve qualitatively superior results. “……. THANK YOU!!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent quadruple the time ‘allowed’ on a few tasks for clients (i.e. the 7.5 hr. kw research I did this week for only 6 terms!…and still need to replace 2). The end result of not only having positive results from a well built campaign, but also having a happy client is well worth it.
    When you manage an SEO/SEM campaign, it shouldn’t be like a game of “Perfection” where you’re racing around trying to put all of those yellow plastic pieces in their place before the timer runs out. It should be a chess game where every move has a consequence, if not well thought out, and a loss can happen with just one wrong move.

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