Life as a (in)House SEO

People don’t realize how much work goes into keeping a site at the top of a very competitive search term.

However, in our industry doing SEO in house certainly gives us an edge.

It would be very hard for us to outsource this.

– James Coakes, In-House SEO

As more companies bring search marketing in-house, the demand continues to rise for talented in-house operators.

I interviewed a number of current in-house SEOs to find out more about their work.

Life & Challenges of being In-House

“In-house SEO’s aren’t exposed to other SEO experts on a day to day basis. We learn from blogs, attending conferences and reading books,” said Bob Shirilla in-house SEO at Simply Bags,

“When I attend an SEO conference most of the SEO secrets are acquired at lunch or at the bar from other SEO.”

Depending on the size of your company you may be the only web person and have to wear a dozen different hats. Larger companies may have entire departments for SEO where you could be tasked with just building links or doing keyword research all day. Life as an in-house SEO varies greatly from job to job.

Your skills could be incredibly vital and recognized at say a Demand Media or Internet Brands type company, but alot of times you’re just, “the web gal/guy” and no one really has any clue what you do all day.

James Coakes from laments,

“The biggest challenge is getting people who don’t work in SEO to understand what it is that you do. A lot of SEO activity looks spurious from the outside; blogging, social networking and so on.”

Here’s Conrad Saam of Avvo with confessions of an In-House SEO,

Making The Boss Happy

“I please my boss…with rankings” – Christopher Wise, SEO at

Proving the point that rankings still matter, Wise brings up a common theme for In-House SEOs…rankings. You either have ’em or you don’t. And bosses love rankings. They love that they can google their favorite keywords and see where they rank for those trophy terms.

For Shrilla at Simply Bags it’s more about showing the boss the value of SEO, he says he has to provide, “data that shows SEO ROI exceeds other forms of advertising,” and strategize a “social media campaign that contributes to the bottom line.”

Favorite Metrics In-House SEOs Like

Every SEO uses different reports and metrics to show the value of their work.

They can range from basic (visits this month) to advanced (% deviation in non-brand organic traffic this month relative to 4 week running average for the same weekday).

At SearchFest this year Conrad Saam, head of marketing at gave a list of some of his favorite metrics:

  • Organic traffic excluding brand terms
  • % of links to non-homepage URL
  • Difference between MozRank and MozTrust
  • Indexed pages vs. competitors

Christopher Wise ( likes:

  • # of referring sites
  • # of referring keywords
  • Backlinks from unique domains

Bob Shrilla (Simply Bags) prefers:

  • Revenue by link source

Daniel Pati throws in another vote for SEOMoz’s mozRank and mozTrust saying, “I like mR and mT,¬†because¬†as well as being useful metrics in themselves, the discrepancy between them can tell you things too.”

In-House SEO Demand & Salaries

This SEOMoz survey shows average salaries for various in-house positions ranging from “VP of Search Marketing” (100K-350K+) down to “SEO Researcher” (30K-60K).

So the money can be good. But are companies hiring?

Aaron Wall of the popular SEOBook community thinks so writing,

More companies are bringing SEO in-house.

When I first got in the SEO scene I would say that something like 75% to 80% of the people who went to conferences were SEO companies or lone wolf styled affiliate folks, with in-house SEOs representing maybe 20% of the audience.

Since then the market has certainly become more corporate, especially as most of the profits have been squeezed out of AdWords due to intense competition & the economy has been soft. A couple years ago at SEO conferences over half the attendees were in-house SEOs and at some conferences today I would bet that something like 2/3 of the audience are in-house SEOs.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land fame commented, “Actually the SEMPO survey saw a drop in in-house spending”.

Rand Fishkin of the uber popular SEO software company SEOMoz expanded on that survey,

As the SEMPO report showed, we’re seeing a bit more agency/consultant involvement this year than years past where in-house growth was high. I’m not entirely sure of the cause, but complexity of search+social campaigns combined with burgeoning budgets and hard-to-find talent are likely contributors.

In terms of in-house SEOs – we’re seeing two trends. The first is that more companies want them at an earlier stage and the second is that their titles are often evolving to things like “Director of Organic Marketing” or “Inbound Marketing Specialist” with responsibilities across all the organic channels – search, social, content, feeds, video, local, etc.

Is In-House The Life For You?

Heck, nothing wrong with regular paychecks and good healthcare. For talented SEO’s that don’t want the risk of building their own sites, or the challenges of client work, being an in-house could be a great and lucrative fit.

The future is bright for the in-house SEO. Based on demand and awareness expect salaries and promotability to continue rising.

More Reading about In-House Life:

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