Natural Search Blog


Top In-House SEOs – Where Are They Now?

There’s been a lot of buzz lately criticizing TopSEOs, a business which purports to rate Search Engine Optimization experts, though ratings are influenced by payments. Both Aaron Wall and Edward Lewis skewered the service with pretty convincing points.

The rating service and talk about it reminded me that I actually did a sort of rating via a blog post here back in 2007 entitled “Some Top In-House SEOs“. In that post I sought to list out the cream-of-the-crop of search engine optimization experts working within major companies.

Top SEOs - On Top Of The Heap

The main difficulty of attempting to rate SEOs is that it’s quite hard to know precisely what they’ve recommended or done to optimize a company’s websites. For instance, you could be an absolute genius at SEO, but if the company is lethargic or incompetent programmers oversee their sites, none of the SEO expert’s talent might be reflected in the actual site. That’s an extreme example, and in most cases some degree of the expert’s recommendations will be properly implemented. But the point is that site configuration may not really be used to reflect an expert’s actual ability, particularly if compared with other colleagues.

Back when I wrote “Some Top In-House SEOs”, I wasn’t really prepared for the large amount of attention it received. I was immediately pressured by a lot of people who wanted to be added to the list, but didn’t meet the criteria I was using. Quite a few people asked me to update the list over time as well, and I quickly saw that it would be necessary if this was done ongoing to be open about the rating criteria I was using — else people would question why so-and-so was listed while so-and-so was not.

The criteria I used back then was very basic. I wanted to list only people who were employees of top companies that performed organic search optimization of one sort or another for those company’s websites. I wanted companies which were readily-identifiable by a majority of people in the U.S., so they had to be MAJOR brand names: top-50 websites, Fortune 500 companies, and Internet Retailer 500 companies. Finally, I had to be able to find/identify the SEOs who worked for those companies, which usually meant that they’d have to self-disclose what they did (many SEOs operated somewhat anonymously behind corporate walls). So, the SEO needed to blog or speak at conferences, and disclose who they worked for. In one or two cases, I discovered individual’s names through news interviews or press releases. I also mined the list of top-linked SEOs from LinkedIn (apparently no longer in operation? formerly: http://www.linkedseo.com/).

I made a number of mistakes, of course. I didn’t feel I had time to write to and receive confirmation from each person. In some cases I just “outed” people from behind the corporate curtain for the first time!

For the most part, people loved the attention and recognition! I felt a bit stressed from those who clamored to get in, and I pretty much stated that I wouldn’t add any until I updated a year down the road. In quite a lot of cases, I think that headhunters mined the list in order to lure people away to other companies, so many benefited from the exposure.

Here it is, about three years after the fact, and I thought it’d be interesting to see where are they all now? So, here’s the list once again, with individual’s former companies listed from back then, and who they work for now. Nothing scientific – I merely base this on what their LinkedIn resume or website states. It’s been neat for me to revisit this list! So many of these folks became friends and close acquaintances since I wrote this up! It’s also fascinating to see how many of them have moved on to advanced titles and to owning their own companies. (more…)

In-House SEOs: The Aftermath

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.

In House SEOs: The Aftermath

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.

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Some Top In-House SEOs

In-House SEOs are a special demographic of optimization specialists that we don’t hear a lot about. Circumspect, they toil in the shadows while controlling vast networks of links and content of some of the highest-ranked sites on the internet. Many of the articles about in-sourcing versus out-sourcing of SEO seem to be biased in favor of optimization firms. Independent SEOs often view In-House SEOs enviously, assuming that they are paid premiums for optimization work of sites that already have natural degrees of PR due to prestige and already-existing marketshare.

Top In-House SEO Specialists

While these ideolized impressions may be off-base, In-House SEOs do enjoy some influence in the SERPs rankings for their site subject verticals, and some of them are undoubtedly paid well for their roles. Due to concerns about proprietary intellectual property, most In-House SEOs have to be fairly quiet about their work. Even so, some of them have engaged with public technological community, and a number of them blog to various degrees or are active in other ways.

In-house SEO specialists have some advantages that outsiders can’t have. They know their own technical environment – servers, networks, domains, specialty applications, content, internal analytics, and they’re experienced in their own industry with its unique needs and concerns. In a lot of cases, an outsider can’t do as good a job at designing and integrating an optimization strategy as an in-house resource. Even considering this, external SEO firms shouldn’t bash internal SEOs quite so defensively – many in-house search marketers still call in consultants and service providers for special projects.

I’m an In-House SEO (among other roles). I was curious about who my peers were in this arena, so I’ve set out to identify some of the top In-House SEOs here. It’s not possible to identify anywhere close to all of them, and I’m likely just scratching the surface here. I’m mainly interested in those others who blog, though I’m open to listing any I find. I’m trying to focus on SEOs for top-ranked companies and huge internet sites.

(more…)

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