It's my first post with the guys at SEO Scoop (thanks guys!), and I thought what better way to introduce myself than offer a bit of an insight into my life at the moment, following some big changes to my life as a SEO...that of moving to a large-scale agency from various SME SEO roles. I'm hoping this might be helpful commentary to those considering roles in either SME SEO or corporate SEO.
SME SEO to Corporate SEO
I have previously been freelancing for 3 SME agencies in the UK along with an in-house role, and the recent move to Mediaedge:cia has been really quite an exciting change. As a result I have been fortunate enough to get a great insight into different SEO working environments, and that's exactly what I'm going to share with you here...the differences between working for a SME SEO and a corporate SEO.
I won't over-introduce Mediaedge:cia as I would be at risk of selling their services :), but the general gist of it is that they are a large media agency, part of marketing and communications group WPP. They are not exclusively a SEO agency at all but rather marketers, media planners and strategists. I currently work as SEO Manager as part of the Digital and Interactive team but also meeting regularly with offline marketers focussed on TV, radio, press, display, etc, so this should provide a little context to my observations.
Workflow Integration and the Multiplier Effect
I started my new role just last month, and more than anything in my new role, I have been fascinated by the change in workflow. By this, I mean the change in how projects are planned, managed and delivered by the various departments. Importantly, it's exciting because you see how integrated SEO can be.
Deeply embedded in SEO is the notion that it is a real marketer's paradise, where art and science meet. Huge successes can be borne as a result of integrating these mindsets. Wider than this though is the apparent opportunity to successfully integrate SEO into the planning and operations of the organisations marketing activity. It adds value to the SEO efforts, but with all integrated media planning there's a multiplier effect. When several marketing channels are used together effectively they create a synergy that totals more than the sum of their parts...for SEO and cumulative awareness, or buzz, this is excellent news for both the client and the agency involved!
Client and Market Fact Finding
One great aspect of working for a large agency is that you are in daily contact with planners and managers that deal with all aspects of the marketing and communications of brands, companies and their websites. Learning about the company and their activity can become easier. Equally though, you could say that the one-on-one contact with SME's creates a basis where information is less-likely to be missed in the communication loop...this is, however, something that could be debated at quite some length but comes down to how engaged people are in the fact finding stage, how bespoke their services are and how rigorous their information management systems are.
Now though, it's good to know that there are people around me that can help capture information and spot opportunities. Regardless of who you work for, it's good to have a network of people and resources.
Client Communication and Client Buy-in
One item that I have found quite different is the client contact. Working with SME's there's plenty of client contact, where the SEO is in direct contact with the webmaster, designer and/or developer of the site, but large agencies can sometimes work quite differently. Often, both the marketing agency and the client has a team of managers, marketers, media planners and assistants to manage the work at each end. The initial point of contact might therefore be a Brand Manager, IT Director, Product Manager...a position that might be quite removed from the day-to-day roles of the website administration. The SEO process therefore has to be sold into multiple-types of staff in a way that can be fragmented up, down or across the organisation. Then again though, I'm guessing as SEO's, you're all pretty used-to trying to tell people exactly what you do!!
When working with global clients SEO might be a relatively small proportion of the marketing budget, as opposed to SME SEO, whereby it might envelop the entire marketing budget! If it's packaged-up as being one of many marketing channels, it needs all the integration you can muster, which means that it's not all about us SEO's! That's OK though, they'll come around. 😉
One thing that has surprised me is that SEO in many ways does appear to be totally scalable. Resource-wise too, it does seem that as the client gets larger, the market becomes more competitive but the output of the SEO activity can grow too, so there is not a limit in capacity.
The biggest difference though appears to be in the diversity and richness of the outputs of the SEO activity...these can both be diluted in the meaning that is communicated to the search engines – i.e. the more content out there the more scope there is to rank for more terms, but equally this could dilute the topic-centric focus which can help more competitive terms rank.
Reviewing/managing/building links when the initial link-profile is 10's of thousands of links might be quite a task but it does create the situation where less quality-driven links can be absorbed as part of the link-profile. Importantly though, are they really worth the time and effort as a few dozen low-value links are not really going to have much impact on the sites visibility when it started out at 10,000 links. This means that we must return back to quality factors, creative social engagement and marketing integration to generate the quality links that are necessary...with a big client and big brand, there is great scope for this though...
One great advantage is that big agencies work with big brands that people recognise, which can provide the initial traction to get campaigns moving as they don't need to overcome the education process of what/who the company or product is.
SME's though, arguably, have the benefit of speed and versatility, where they can make quick decisions and have the content out there ranking positively because of it's timely response...a great opportunity when there's so much trend data about on what's hot. Pro's and cons of each I guess...
With relatively smaller sites, if you believe you have just increased the visitor figures by 100% per month, but in real terms this is 500 visitors more/day it is not the best sample to segment and analyse. The advanced segmentation process that you can delve into with sites that have much larger volumes provide a larger degree of accuracy and information for marketing purposes, and if you like toying with analytics then this is great news!
Hands-on vs. Economies of Scale
At an SME level, any sort of SEO work has to be carried out in a very hands-on manner. I have really enjoyed much of this SEO, especially the onsite analysis and work. SME SEO provides great scope for developing a broad range of skills including onsite optimisation, link-building, PR, PPC and client management, because many tasks had to be done manually as there were not the budgets to provide supplementary analysis tools, etc.
Buying in services and resources can be a great benefit of working for large-scale companies. So too can the access to a variety of more information sources.
Freelancers and the self-employed (have to) know everything
Freelancing puts you on the frontline and so instilled the need to read and read and research SEO and search marketing, but I have never regretted giving that time when I did. In case you were wondering, I didn't know everything by the way, but one thing I did learn from the experience was that working for yourself really does keep you on your toes!
My experience in search marketing to-date has been awesome. Search marketing is an excellent career to be in, and regardless of whether you are a SME SEO, freelancer, large-agency SEO, in-house SEO or affiliate webmaster, the opportunities for building an interesting career are endless. One thing you'll get to know about me, is my enthusiasm for what I do is completely sickening, odd and all-in-all, very geeky, but really, SEO IS AWESOME!
In retrospect, this post has been a bit dry and a bit of a list in parts, but having provided a brief insight into the differences between SME SEO and corporate SEO, ultimately it doesn't matter whether you work for a large or small provider, but rather what is important is that you enjoy what you do. It's advice my pops gave me a long time ago – if you enjoy what you do, you take an interest in it, work hard and ultimately become successful at it! I think the varied nature of SEO and it's integration into other areas of digital marketing and offline marketing lends itself to creating a great career – what do you think?
P.S. Of course I've made some generalisations, but what are your thoughts? SME SEO, corporate SEO, freelancing or in-house SEO? Please feel free to share...
Author: Ben McKay, a SEO Manager at Mediaedge:cia who writes at Just Me and My.