When I started at Moz (then SEOmoz) in May 2012, I had nightmares about coming on to an already-perfectly-optimized site, where the only problems left to solve would be ones that the greatest SEO minds available had already tried and failed to solve. That would have been very interesting, but also very stressful to work on.
Fortunately, working on SEOmoz.org and then Moz.com has turned out to be a lot like many other SEO projects I’ve worked on: it’s a big, old site with lots of content, some of it out-of-date; it has some well-optimized portions and some that were rushed together without much thought for SEO; there’s always more to improve. Really, in my opinion, it’s the best possible SEO project because the fundamentals are in place, there’s plenty of work to be done and I don’t have to constantly sell “why SEO is important” to the executive team. I’m one lucky SEO.
I’m not just lucky in that I’m optimizing a great site (or working at the best place to work in Seattle, even though I live in Oklahoma now). I’m in the incredibly fortunate minority of SEOs who get to work with a full inbound marketing team. I don’t have to work on search AND create an editorial calendar AND build content AND build and manage a community AND maintain a social presence. Instead, I work with a team of talented, passionate people to achieve our inbound marketing goals.
Working with a team is a mixed blessing for a control freak like me. On one hand, not having to do everything gives me a lot more bandwidth to focus on the stuff I do best. On the other hand, not doing everything myself means dealing with other teams, with their own goals and priorities that might be different than each other’s or mine. So a fair amount of my job as an SEO on an inbound marketing team is wrangling, communicating, and making sure we’re all on the same page.
The Content Team
One thing that’s happened a couple of times in my tenure at Moz: I’ve reached out to Alyson, our Marketing Analyst, asking about a research project on e.g. which posts get the most links, only to have her respond “um, I’m pretty sure the Content team is working on the exact same project.” Our Content marketing team really knows their stuff, and having three minds to put together to try to get the most links, shares and engagement we can makes a huge difference.
We’ve got our editorial calendar in a shared Google calendar, so that the entire Marketing team can see who’s going to post on what topic, when. For the most part I’m pretty hands-off with our blog authors – if I see someone’s going to write on a topic we’ve been trying to rank for I might reach out, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
When there’s a keyword I want us to rank for, I’ll take a look and ask:
- Is there an existing piece of content on this topic that just needs a little love?
- If so, will targeting this key phrase with this content piece affect existing rankings?
- If not, whom can we get to create a killer piece of content on this topic?
Usually when it’s the latter issue it’s a great opportunity for SEO and content both – it means there’s a topic on which we’re not providing a great resource for our users. From there, I’ll brainstorm with the Content team on who out of our awesome group of authors might be right for the post, and then Trevor, our Editorial Specialist, will reach out to them to get the post scheduled.
The Community Team
Naturally, our Community team is sharing our blog content as a matter of course. They keep the conversation going on non-blog platforms, alerting post authors when there’s a tweet or a Facebook or G+ comment that needs their attention.
I’ll be honest – one of the reasons I love working at Moz so much is our awesome, totally engaged, curious and knowledgeable community. Knowing that we’ve got a huge base of people to read, share and link to our content every day means a lot less of the boring, grind-out-links kind of link building for me, and frees me up to work with the Community team and the Business Development team to find new influencers outside of our existing sphere with whom we can start building relationships. That community wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of our Community team.
When a big content project like the Beginner’s Guide (or, you know, Moz Analytics launch) is coming up, it’s all hands on deck. The Content team is reviewing copy, and I’ll take a pass too, making sure we’re targeting the right key phrases and that things like metadata and schema.org tags are in place. The Community team is working with the content team to schedule social media coverage of both the project itself and any blog post announcing it; I’m working with them to make sure the people we most want to see it (our target linkers and influencers) have it on their radar. Our Business Development team gets involved too, pitching the story to media outlets and informing key partners of the project for added coverage.
Throughout the launch, we’ll keep an eye on customer feedback, traffic, links and shares and have post-mortem conversation via email to talk about what went well and what we can do better next time.
What Have We Learned?
I can’t claim that I’ve done everything right at Moz, or that there haven’t been areas in which we all could improve. Here are some of the major takeaways I have from my successes and failures as the Moz SEO:
- Keep everyone in the loop about what you’re doing. Otherwise, you risk duplicating someone else’s efforts and that’s a waste of time.
- Don’t assume basic SEO considerations like metadata will be handled – it’s your job to make sure they’re in there. Everyone else is busy doing their jobs.
- Shared ownership can feel a little scary if you’re used to being in charge, but it allows you to tap in to other people’s creativity and makes sure they’ve got your back when it’s time to take your project to the larger group.
- Everyone cares about getting more traffic, links, shares and revenue. All you have to do is help them do what they do, the very best they can to maximize these opportunities.
- The backbreaking time and effort it takes to really build a strong, engaged community will eventually pay back dividends in exposure and engagement.
- Keywords are important, but not as important as getting great authors to write content your community will love.
- Even well-optimized sites will keep you busy with new improvements and tests.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that having a team you can trust allows you to let go of control-freak tendencies and build something pretty amazing.