Large Scale In-house SEO Tips by Microsoft Search Marketing Director

During Pubcon Las Vegas 2011 the conference’s video content producer Vanessa Zamora sat down with Alex Volk, search marketing director at Microsoft.
Volk
said there is no one typical day leading a large-scale department at a company like Microsoft, but ever since he started this practice it’s been about staying on top of what’s going on in the business, figuring out where the biggest opportunities are to have an impact and focusing on successful strategies with the things his team does go after to have the best results. There are 100 times as many things that his team wants to do that they can’t, so they just have to stay focused on what it is they can, Volk said.

One of the challenges, according to Volk, is keeping up with all of Microsoft’s content. Microsoft.com basically has an infinite amount of content, and figuring out how to retire content and have a life cycle policy is is important because the company just keeps cranking more stuff out without thinking about the things that are already there, Volk said. Another challenge, according to Volk, is enterprise or site-wide initiatives – anything from standard redirect policies to how Microsoft handles localization, and really trying to build things once so that they can be deployed across a number of different initiatives to be able to see the impact every single time that process or solution comes together and runs, Volk said.

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Volk, who spoke on the topic of in-house seo, said the take-aways from the session included recommending businesses start their SEO efforts by building a framework. Then it’s important to understand all the areas that can be touched and the areas of SEO that can be controlled within your business, Volk continued.
Determining the areas where opportunity analysis can be done and making a prioritized list of them is a good way to find the low-hanging fruit to go after aggressively in order to show success, Volk said. By documenting these results and turning them into case studies, you’ve got evidence to then move forward with larger projects, Volk added. This is how to build momentum and increase the scale of a project, Volk noted.

Volk suggested that marketing should build two dashboards. The first is an executive-level one comprised of three to five SEO metrics for everyone in the organization to see, especially C-level and senior managers, Volk said. The second is a line-level dashboard for employees who work daily with SEO, featuring a richer set of metrics and more customized data, Volk noted. Then Volk suggested looking at incremental tools and things that augment your processes. Volk said that Microsoft uses services from several third-party providers, including BrightEdge, which brings in significant amounts of rich data from search engines, and other tools from firms including Omniture and Webtrends for certain side-side analytics, to help provide a more robust view of what is going on. Executing this method will allow one to chase smaller opportunities as you really nail the big things on your list and your backlogs tends to shrink, said Volk.

Exciting things on the horizon for search include social signals, according to Volk. If you look at the way in which social content is starting to permeate search engines, whether it’s Bing or Google, it’s fundamentally changing how content gets represented in search, he added. As SEO’s, we only think about our own site when in fact we need to be thinking about how people are speaking about us because that more and more often is becoming part of the results and people tend to trust results from people we know, so we really have to take a step back and think about how social is really changing the landscape of SEO and how it’s going to change the content that we touch, Volk concluded.