Pick His Brain!
I’d like to introduce one of our members, Jason Wilson, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.
Jason is currently the SEO manager of one of the fastest growing Fortune 500 companies doing over $20B in revenue.
He has worked with international brands including Google itself.
If you have any questions related enterprise technical SEO, big data, working with and landing large brands, please feel free to pick his brain.
Here are the rules.
1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.
2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s successes and strategies.
3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.
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Whats a typical sales cycle for enterprise clients like, and average contract duration? If you don’t have an inside track for enterprise sales, is it worth investing time on pitching?
Typically quarterly but annual contracts are possible once you have a track record and relationships with the right teams.
Usually budgets are departmental and they may increase or decrease.
Sometimes there is a slush fund or end of quarter budget, so I would say understanding the fiscal year of the company you are pitching is important.
Yes, build a relationship with the right people and price tour value upfront.
Be ultra professional and realize that these people are dealing with Harvard grads and very buttoned-up people internally.
If you are a mess then they will not want to have you represent their projects or present to stakeholders.
Prove your value*
What are some of the tools you and/or your team use day to day?
Most large tech companies love Python and SQL experience, although at my current company this all lives within the Analytics and Data Science teams.
For big data, Big Query, Splunk, Tableau are all used pretty frequently but we have other data lake and data warehouses in other orgs.
For our team, connecting API’s to Google Data Studio or Tableau is about far as we need to go.
What is the % breakdown of time spent on strategy, execution & reports for clients on an average?
That varies based on job role.
For me it’s 60% strategy, 30% execution, 10% reporting (roughly).
There are many jobs inside the job at a global org, so it’s not just hardcore SEO all the time.
Are you actively reaching out to new clients or do you no longer need to do this anymore? Any tips for landing larger clients?
No, I am currently 100% in this career and its hard to juggle both.
It’s better for my sanity to not get consulting clients although with prices in the Bay Area it’s quite tempting.
How do your prioritise growth tasks (seo or other) and allocate resources? What goes into that decision making process?
It’s based on historical performance data and business data that looks at which parts of the site are impacting leads, pipeline, and ACV.
We break everything out into its own bucket. Technical, Content/On-Page, Off-page/linking.
Then we have team members running projects within each discipline.
Just making sure you have all of your projects tracked with ETA’s and you are communicating with stakeholders regularly you will be good.
Lots of small companies make the mistake of just sending a monthly report and never reaching out to share small wins.
At big companies small wins can equal much bigger opportunities.
Tbh I am not the best at project management, which is why its nice having a team dedicated to that.
I am a problem solver but it is important to conform to the style of your group and adapt to their tools/programs for tracking.
Are the enterprise folk aware of and/or experimenting with AI writing, automated content creation, or mass deploying pages, sites, properties, etc yet? Or are they too “brand” concerned to play with such fire?
It’s a slippery slope when you have legal and compliance teams.
Certainly more on the personalization side of AI but not with content… yet.
How much off-page is done in-house vs outsourced partners?
Off-page is s variety of things for Enterprise businesses.
The biggest advantage you have is PR and advertising.
Which bring in a ton of backlinks aside from the links you get just for being the too company in a particular technology or market segment.
So, I would say about 80% of the lifting for driving link equity is done there.
I can’t specifically comment on the percentage when it comes to more deliberate linking.
But in many cases the most powerful links acquired are from unlinked brand mentions, 404’s, link sculpting, etc.
There are so many high-DA links living in the wild, you just have to have someone claim them.
Part of the issue with in-house teams at these companies is that they rarely hire off-page specialists.
While I have decent experience there I have zero time to do outreach or manage those efforts.
If you were just starting out in SEO today what would you get good at first?
Client management and service. Also sticking to SOW’s and keeping both parties accountable.
Alignment is key with client relationships and if you can manage them well then you will have success.
SEO results talk but relationships are extremely valuable.
At a tactical level, I think learning technical SEO and continuing to advance your understanding of technical components is huge.
Many SEO’s are good at content and on-page, even link building.
But not many are good at understanding Schema, site architecture, crawl budget, JS crawling, hreflang, etc.
What was your biggest SEO “aha” moment?
Tbh some of the things I learned in this group have given me massive “aha” moments!
In my career it’s when I started understanding the importance of alignment between client and service provider.
I have learned a lot at my current company and with so many cooks in the kitchen things can easily get off track.
Being the person that takes the most notes and communicates the most often will benefit you greatly.
What is your favorite “seo quick win”?
Intent matching with titles, H1/H2, and other on-page elements.
What do you find to be the most efficient and reliable way for an SEO team to send over and get changes done by the in-house dev team? Git vs staging server pushes vs just sending lists of edits over type of thing.
Let me see… for this I think it’s more about designing your process around theirs.
If you are working with an in-house marketing team, packaging up the dev updates in a way that they can help take them over the finish line for you.
Prioritizing dev changes and adding a business rationale is always going to help get more accomplished.
It’s one of the more challenging things in my role, because dev has other priorities aside from SEO updates.
For an outside agency getting updates to happen can be more difficult.
Having internal alliances and good relationships with your POCs will help you get things done.
Find out at the beginning by asking. “How does your dev team work and what are the most successful ways to get technical changes pushed through?”.
As well as “How can we package things in a way that make it easier for your team to work with dev on the required changes.
Also, get someone from the dev team involved in the discussions that will help facilitate the changes internally.
If you are working directly with the dev team just make their lives easier and ask similar questions.
Ask about how they prioritize dev work and try to conform to their process.
Scrum managers or internal project managers that coordinate across teams would also be good people to have relationships with.
What types of outside pitches, if any, have made you want to outsource a certain part of SEO?
Seeing potential in software or services that will make our lives easier.
The problem with pitching via email is that cold pitches get ignored 99.999% of the time.
People have dozens of emails and ate inundated with communications while at work.
Providing value and showing up when they are looking for solutions to their problems is a good way to stand out.
Youtube videos addressing Enterprise related issues (ie scaling SEO, hreflang, site migrations, etc as well as guest blogging for respected pubs could be good ways to get their attention.
LinkedIn is still possibly the best way to get in contact with someone and make a connection.
Just don’t start with “What is (XYZ company) doing for in-page optimization? We provide a way to supercharge your efforts and blah blah blah”.
Be personable and ask them something about the company, be genuine.
Find something in their profile you can relate to.
I think demonstrating that you know the type of issues they face and you understand the most effective way to help them solve them is key.
Demo videos or 30-min walkthroughs are good to wet their whistle before going into a big pitch.
They need to see what you bring to the table before getting in bed with you.
If it is software give them a demo or a full paid account for 30 days and request that they do something specific that will show them the power of your software.
If you are selling services, demonstrating what you have worked on and exactly how you can solve their problems is key.
Always think beyond just providing good recommendations, there are lots of nerds that can do an SEO audit.
But can you help them turn it into actionable recommendations, package them up for dev, provide business rationale, etc.
The more you can demonstrate that you can button up your work and make their lives easier, the better.
Nobody wants to deal with sloppy work from a contractor and if they have to spend hrs arranging or cleaning it up then they will become annoyed pretty easily.
If you can ease those concerns and show that you have a well-orchestrated process that will help.
Get together a really nice capabilities deck as well and have a designer and copywriter help. Very important!
How Big Data and Business Intelligence relate to SEO?
Data and business intelligence help you understand how SEO is impacting business and driving value (leads, conversion, revenue, other meaningful metrics).
BI in terms of data visualization helps you build automated dashboards and views for internal teams and executives which impact business decisions regarding your channel.
Do you use contractors or SEO consultants? If so, for what types of tasks / projects?
Yes, we do have trusted contractors for various things.
Content creation and on-page optimization are the most common things we use contractors for.
Content is tough because it has to align with the SEO team’s expectations as well as internal writers and product marketers.
It can be a total shit show getting something through the pipeline and our team has backed out if being the middle man in some of those efforts tbh.
It’s like “Plug us in, but you manage that project and relationship since you are so damn particular!”
How to optimise Google crawling budget for millions of Pages site like the vacation rental industry or travel? How important Last-modified Headers for googlebot?
Use an advanced platform like Botify and preferably use server logs to help you get a handle on crawl budget and link architecture.
Lastmods are good to have if you are updating content frequently, but I don’t think you would see much benefit on a more static site.
I can’t say I have seen a difference in having lastmod vs not having it.
But tbh I haven’t tested it enough to definitively say it’s good to have it in your sitemaps. John Mueller says so!
What is your win backlink industry for a highly competitive industry like travel or e-commerce?
Not sure I understand the question.
What are your three favorite sources for improving your SEO skills and professional skills (aside from SEO Signals Lab)?
I have answers for this but its late and my brain is melting… will respond to this soon!
Can you share any checklist for improving the web vitals score or any other page speed related checklist.
Will put together some of my fav resources and respond here soon.
What is your work strategy looks like?? How many people you have in your team? How do you handle cross team collaboration in big companies like this?? Does your company deals with external/temp resources? Do you use AB testings?? How do you decide and What’s your hypothesis looks like? What type items you consider to be out sourced? Apologies on bombarding with loooong deep discusion topics. (I am up for discussion) and any insight from an expert is Gold.
Good questions. I will respond here soon with answers. Fading currently and my brain hurts lol.
Do you buy links for your clients? If you do, will you place all those links you get offered without adding for them via spreadsheet lists on your blacklist? If you do, how do you find your backlink partners?
I am in-house so my clients are internal teams.
Unlinked brand mentions and link sculpting can both be powerful opps to uncover for large brands.
If they don’t know they have all of these great, underutilized links in their portfolio then why would they care?
Sometimes the in-house SEO team will redirect the link in the case of a 404.
If you can help them claim the link and update it that has value.
How is a typical work day structured for you?
Morning emails, Slack’s, and other comms… then planning on times and strategy to tackle one major priority task and several smaller tasks for the day.
Then follow-ups in the afternoon via email.
This is all between and during several meetings and other requirements that have nothing to do with SEO.
How do you keep meetings short and effective?
Create an agenda, keep small talk to a minimum.
Also, if there is a tangential question or topic let the person know that you will help.
But you will provide a response to that via email.
Also, take notes of everything said and then follow up with a recap and specific action items.
How can I be prepared for Enterprise level SEO? How does enterprise-level SEO differ from generic SEO like a small website?
It differs in that you are dealing with a more complicated client and you have more stakeholders to please.
Having them fill out briefs, asking questions, getting their priorities upfront is very important.
It’s not about you being an awesome SEO… it’s about you doing good work in the way they ask, then delivering it in a format that is digestible.
They want to be able to take your work and present it internally for buy-in so it should always be prioritized and have action items and business rationale for making the changes.
So the upfront is more complicated and then ongoing reporting and communication is higher touch than SMBs.
Do you use any automation like python or something else to fix issues? If yes then how, since there could be millions of pages(enterprise-level SEO) that can consume a tremendous amount of time and resources?
No, we don’t automate fixes like this.
The sites we work on are hundreds of thousands of pages, not millions.
Large sites are usually template based so you can apply sweeping changes with one code fix.
If an indexed backlink showing in ahrefs isn’t showing in the g search console. Does that mean G has ignored it due to having unnatural anchor or it’s coming from a penalised domain or means something else entirely. If a link is ignored once, is it possible to show up in the g console if that site links to you again with different content/anchor.
Tbh I don’t have a good answer for this and I don’t use GSC’s tool to check backlinks.
I rarely deal in backlinks not because I don’t want to but because there is literally not enough resources or time to handle it properly.
Not resources meaning money but more so head count. I would love to have a link team internally, maybe some day…
What does your in house team look like? How do you track and organize their progress?
6 people in the US and another dozen internationally handling SEO efforts.
We use BrightEdge for dashboards and tracking.
Tbh not my favorite but its good for reporting.
Otherwise, we use a lot of Google sheets for tracking.
One sheet with multiple tabs can be all you need.
One place that has tasks, existing projects, technical, content, and off-page programs.
We don’t use fancy PM tools like Asana but if we had a dedicated PM on our team we could go that route.
What do you think is the most efficient way to do backlinking?
What type of site? Tactics will vary based on if it’s a site for one product, a blog, a leadgen site, etc.
I think building relationships with the top publishers in your niche can be valuable and being persistent, personable, and polite (3 P’s).
Persistent means if they don’t get back in a month send a follow up.
Nothing worse than people following up a week later with that “Never heard back from you” email.
What are the top issues have you regarding international SEO and optimizing versions of the company site in other countries?
Getting hreflang to work 100% of the time!
But lots of obstacles with hreflang including inconsistent taxonomy, using foreign languages in their URL (page slug different in every region), and using XML for hreflang.
I feel like HTML works best even though it adds page overhead… and its much easier to audit with Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, etc.
XML sitemaps are used often because it can be easier to scale since you can update the XML sitemap independent of the site, etc.
Can be easier to manage but it’s a headache to audit in comparison.
What are the top tools your team uses regularly? What tools do you wish you had at your disposal but don’t currently?
Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Botify, GSC, BrightEdge, Surfer.
There are a few others I want to get but I wont mention the names since their sales team will be all over me.
I will say Dixon Jones’ Inlinks tool seems pretty legit for topical analysis.
Oh and IM Ninjas rich snippet tool is pretty bad ass!
What did you prefer about being a freelancer and what you prefer about being in-house?
In-house I like having a large team with diverse skill sets.
Getting paid consistently, getting stock and great benefits, seeing how a multi-billion dollar company operates.
As a consultant I loved the freedom and flexibility. I also love the limitless possibilities and income when you are running your own show.