Talking to the Global SEO manager of a large organization with offices around the world, he was bemoaning the high turnover of staff and the difficulty of keeping people in SEO posts around the world with the right level of SEO knowledge and expertise to achieve their goals.
It’s a challenge many organizations face. That’s not to say that these businesses are bad at retaining staff — the very fact that they are global often means that they offer something special to the world. Their staff are often not moving onto other organziations either — but simply are being promoted to a different position, team or department. Some, of course, are leaving the company too.
Another issue is that “SEO” responsibilities around the world aren’t often held by people who are dedicated to the cause of SEO. Mostly, they have other marketing tasks to handle too and have a relatively limited bandwidth for SEO.
Before going further, I have to declare two areas of personal interest. My company runs the International Search Summit with SMX and training programs. I’m also a long standing fan of SMX and SearchEngineLand and first attended conferences by Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman in 2003 in the UK and 2004 in the US. So this gives me something of a bias, but also I think a unique insight into the industry we’re all in.
In many sectors there have been studies into the value of training. I don’t propose to labour this point – I think we’re all aware of the rapidly changing nature of the business.
The value of keeping abreast of search engine and social media developments pays for itself many times over – I’m sure we all agree. You would think that investing in training would be a no-brainer but it’s still a cost and it’s value isn’t always recognized. (My staff at this point are also nodding.)
We also have to recognize at this point that for those working in international SEO the challenges are particularly tough. No one speaks 20 or even 10 languages well. If you see someone who claims that, I suggest you challenge it. So how can a normal human being SEO working internationally actually cope? Let’s look at some strategies.
If you think I’m about to say it’s a good idea to go to conferences, you’d only be half right. There are conferences all over the world so you could quite easily send staff to the most local conference for them. I think there is a better strategy which I’ve seen a few companies deploy.
A good strategy is to choose a big and wide ranging conference somewhere in the world and then to fly in the relevant staff from all over the world. Yes I can hear the sharp intake of breath and I know there’s a little more cost involved with that, but the value is clear.
With all of the global SEO team in one place, they can discuss not just what they’ve seen and heard but also their own issues. In effect you can organise a parallel conference for you own organisation alongside the main conference with the inspiration of the main conference in the team’s minds.
I have to say that in my humble opinion, major conferences such as SMX have made a major contribution to the development of this industry.
I wish I saw this more often in RFPs. There are basically two types of agency in the world; those agencies who keep their insight and knowledge up their sleeves not wanting to share it with their clients, presumably because they take the view that they will earn less money if they “Teach our clients how to do it!”
Then there are those agencies which take the view that if they do not pass information to the people working within the client company, they will simply not achieve their combined goals.
There are many tools available where you can create a repository to store information on best practice. If you don’t have a system for this in place, then you are going to find that you constantly need to re-invent the wheel and to spend much more money on training. But be careful, the information stored in your repository needs to be regularly reviewed to keep things up to speed with the latest developments.
You can share responsiblity around the organization for creating in-house training materials. A good system is to allocate areas to cover such as link building, content management, on page code and so on and give these to different people around the team to manage and to provide the training to others.
The process of creating and maintaining the training materials actually turns the people involved into experts in their own field which makes you much less dependent on external resources.
There are some pretty good resources available which staff can participate in remotely. Consider that it might be wise to get translated transcripts produced to enhance the understanding of your co-workers. Never forget that whilst your colleagues appear to speak good English, when it comes to training, it’s harder if you don’t speak the language as your mother tongue.
I also believe that in the end, quality face-to-face training in small groups makes a huge difference to your success.
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