So, my article a week ago, Some Top In-House SEOs , got a surprisingly large amount of attention. The tipping point was likely when Search Engine Land mentioned it in a brief post entitled The SEOs Doing It In-House .
Yet the traffic we got from it was not solely parasitic referrals from SEL, but also lots of direct hits and referrals from elsewhere. It seems as though it tapped into some tiny, niche zeitgeist, resulting in lots of people in the industry sending it to their friends and acquaintances. Accidental linkbait! Read on for more details.
As it turns out, quite a few in-house SEOs got a great, vicarious or directÂ thrill from it. Just as I mentioned, lots of the internal search optimization specialists do not have the leeway to write about what they do, and a number of companies want even the existence of their in-housers to be kept hush-hush. Also, a significant number of SEO industry articles in the past have focused on some bashing of companies’ decisions to insource this sort of work, trying to fearmonger companies into using their services. This leaves a lot of in-house SEOs feeling neglected,Â misunderstood,Â or even frustrated at the lack of representative voice in the blogosphere. So,Â the articleÂ apparently gave in-housers some uncharacteristic public exposure and a bit of vindicating reinforcement for the hard work they do, day-in and day-out.
The aftermath of the article has been entertaining all around! I got quite a lot of anecdotal evidence that most or all of the SEOs I listed were almost immediately courted by independent SEO firms, and company staffing representatives. I was also approached by a number of these headhunters! I suspect that this feeding frenzy ensued because of the increasing number of SEO jobs throughout the country, coupled with the dearth of experienced, high-quality candidates. (See Monster.com’s hundreds of SEO jobs  listed — many of which have remained unfilled forÂ some lengths of time.)
I noted the list could have a degree of error involved — indeed, some folx pointed out  that I’d accidentally listed a few folx who shouldn’t be considered “in-house” at allÂ — the FindLaw folx, for instance. It probably would’ve been preferable for me to’ve contacted each individual before publishing the list, just to verify accuracy — but the research to compose the list was already time-consuming, and it would’ve taken quite a bit more work to’ve contacted each person to obtain their feedback.
WebMama  cracked me up completely by mentioning “out-house” SEOs when she spoke of one of the in-housers, Tanya Vaughan,Â with whom she’s worked. I assumed this mention of “out-house”Â was intentionally self-deprecating humor!
I was deluged by requests from professionals who wished to be added to the list — so much so that I had to declare the directory to be frozen for the time being. As one pro laughingly pointed out, I made the grand mistake of inviting SEOs to request links from me!
I was taken to task a bit for my arbitrary methodology in deciding who should be added to the list. This was my bad for not being clear in how I chose those listed, and if I do issue another, more-comprehensive list in the future, I’ll try to clearly communicate the selection criteria. My only excuse is that I’m not a professional journalist, and I didn’t expect the article and list to get the amount of attention they got.
Dave Pasternack , a principal of Did-It SEM firm, has sparked controversy in the recent past by suggesting that companies didn’t need SEO consulting at all. Dave also posted a comment on my blog list, asking how many of the companies had decided to in-source after using external SEO firms. Dave, I don’t have specifics, but I’d be willing to bet that most in-housers likely contract out some special research questions, projects, or competitive reporting duties to external firms.
See, my take on the whole in-house vs. outsourced SEO work is that the two camps are actually pretty symbiotic. I know that some companies like Amazon.com, Yahoo, and MSN have fairly large departments focussing on both SEO and SEM. But, many other firms have only a few managers dedicated to search marketing tasks, so these folx will typically contract out portions of their project work to external firms. Also, internal SEOs sometimes hire SEO firms to train themselves and their staff, and they depend on the SEO firms for advice and information gleaned through blogs and conference sessions. Neither camp should look upon the other as a threat.
Also, most companies have found some value in a mixture of paid and natural search marketing, so I believe it’s also an overreaction for paid search ad management companies to feel any need to deride SEO or go on the offensive in trying to push companies away from SEO contracting. Most in-house SEOs are not interested so much in the philosophical controversy between paid/natural, but are looking for ways to manage a comprehensive program that has good ROI.
A number of in-house SEOs wrote to me to mention that they don’t feel secure in blogging about Search Marketing stuff, because it’s either against their corporate rules or because they fear that their company would potentially interpret their writing as revealing proprietary or competitive information about their work.
I have some advice for those of you In-House SEOs who feel insecure in blogging:
- Naturally, don’t publicly disclose elements of your work that are proprietary or which would give your competition too much info. Beyond that, you should be able to talk about stuff that is commonly-known or stuff that any SEO would be able to tell after looking at your site for five minutes. There’s no real risk of disclosing proprietary stuff if you’re talking about things that are moderately well known to the industry.
- Carefully read your organization’s employee rules and be sure that you adhere to those completely. Many companies allow employees some latitude in what they do outside of work, so read carefully to see if the rules allow you this freedom.
- If your company rules are so ultra-restrictive about engaging in public discourse, you might be able to campaign to have the rules changed or perhaps you could get permission anyway. I’ve found that blogging allows me to trade research with others in the industry, so being allowed to do some amount of blogging can be beneficial to your work for the company.
- Some in-house folx anonymously blog. This is one way to engage with the blogosphere without having uber-conservative companies come down on you like a load of bricks. To do this, maybe write under an alias, and set up your blog and articles with no mentions of your company nor yourself. If you’re building a blog off a custom domain name, be sure to register the domain using one of those services which will keep your identity secret, otherwise someone will look up your name and potentially expose you.
- Be aware of SEC rules and guidelines if your company is publicly-traded. You do not want to get into trouble for unintentionally influencing stock prices, so avoid making forward-sounding statements about your company’s work and plans.
Ultimately, exercise careful consideration — you should evaluate whether your company is flexible enough to allow you to blog or not, and you have to make the decision for yourself.