I spoke recently with John Shehata, the director of search for ABC News. Since he owns the SEO responsibility for a number of large media properties, I leapt at the chance to explore some of the things he has learned along the way. We dug in and explored the challenges of educating a large media company, dealing with multiple content management systems, syndicating content and query deserves freshness, all viewed through the eyes of ABC!
Eric Enge: Can you provide a brief outline of your responsibilities at ABC News?
John Shehata: Im the Executive Director of Search for ABC News, and recently heading SEO for media properties like ABC Family, ABC.com, and Oscars. Everything SEO goes through our department.
Eric Enge: How many people are in the department?
John Shehata: Were a small centralized team of 2. We also have SEO Ambassadors, which is a group of people that work within different groups at ABC, different shows or properties that help others with SEO as the first line of defense and make sure that SEO is top of mind. They bring us in if they have bigger questions or bigger projects for us to work on.
Eric Enge: The word ambassador is a lead-in to the next question. One of the issues with a larger media organization (in my experience, a traditional media organization) is theres a constant need to educate on what role SEO can play in the growth and promotion of the business. Can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges and some of the wins, perhaps, that you have had along those lines within ABC?
John Shehata: Sure thing. I believe that 40% to 50% of our job is to educate and inform people on SEO best practices, and we actually spend a lot of time doing this. We create different presentations and tailor them to different types of audiences. Presentations to C-level are different from presentations to development or tech teams, which also differ from the editorial team.
We try to help them see why SEO is important to them, and what they will gain from doing it. Were not telling people how to do their job, but really helping them to become more successful at what they do by applying the best practices of search engine optimization. We also stress that we really dont optimize for search engines, but instead, we optimize for people who use search engines to find our content. Education is a big part of our job.
We educate, train, and we create best practices guides, documents, and one-sheets that go around, answer emails with information, send weekly and monthly newsletters and create wikis. If we get the question more than once, we create an FAQ. We have a lot of material out there for the different users, the different departments and the different properties.
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Enterprise SEO Interview With ABC’s John Shehata