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As my friends know, in January, I became an in-house SEO. Now that I have a few weeks under my belt, I thought I’d discuss some of the differences between agency SEO and in-house SEO, the type of traits it takes to succeed in-house, and some of the traps you can land in.

Agency vs. In-house

Let’s start with some of the differences between agency SEO and in-house SEO.

In-house Has No Hamster Wheel

In an agency, it’s inevitable. While waiting for clients to implement your recommendations, you hit roadblocks and dead ends.

In-House Has More Distractions

At the agency, the CEO and I were the go-to people for all things search and social. And, because he was the CEO, I got most of the questions. That meant I worked on every client whether I was on the team or not.

Imagine my surprise. As an in-house SEO, I get more questions from colleagues and interruptions. It makes sense. At the agency, everyone from the receptionist to the CEO lives and breathes search and social. They know the 80%. They need help with the difficult 20%.

In-house, I have to educate and evangelize from the ground up. People here know organic search and social are important, but they are just learning how to implement it. Unlike PPC landing pages, which are largely isolated, every brochure page, case study, blog post… every indexed page affects SEO.

In-house, You Can Walk Down The Hall & Face-to-Face

When you hit roadblocks with agency clients, you’re at their mercy. Whether it’s a communications slowdown, a technical hurdle, or defensive posturing, you have to wait for the client to implement or give you the go-ahead.

In-house, I can simply leave my desk and visit my co-workers. I don’t always get the answers I want. However, I can learn exactly where each problem lies and work with people who understand and share my goals.

SEO Communications

Whether you work as an SEO at an agency or inside a business with more than a few employees, there are many things you must be able to communicate, including the following:

Communicate Clearly Without Jargon

When you spend your days with co-workers inside agency walls or with colleagues at conferences, it’s easy to communicate using terms the uninitiated will not understand. A wise professor told me the true meaning of knowledge is the ability to teach. Know your plain language definitions and practice using them. Let colleagues know you want them to ask for an explanation when you say something they do not understand.

Be Disciplined & Concise

Similarly, you cannot monopolize everyone’s time by droning on and on. If you cannot be clear, persuasive, and brief at the same time, you will never succeed as an in-house SEO.


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