The day-to-day of an enterprise level SEO professional can be a lot to juggle. You must learn to find ways to implement automation into your marketing to increase the efficiency of your time. Few people understand that more than Brian LaFrance, who currently oversees search for several CBS Interactive properties. In fact, Brian’s experience and skills can translate into killer scaling techniques for digital marketers at all levels.
Brian’s position at CBS has him overseeing high-trafficked websites such as CBS.com, CBS Sports, and GameSpot.
How did you get your start in the industry?
When asked about his start in the industry, Brian goes back to a job he started not long after high school. He spent a couple of years designing and building custom swimming pools. In 1999, the job of building the company’s website fell to Brian. It didn’t take long before the owner’s son recognized his talents and said that “Brian shouldn’t be building swimming pools for the rest of his life,” and he encouraged Brian to go back to school. While in college learning about multimedia and software engineering, Brian honed his development skills and ended up designing and building a pool for the owner of an online pharmacy. Soon after starting that job, Brian took over programming for the site including building affiliate software and working with affiliates of their program. Many of the SEOs in that space were completely black-hat. “I pretty much started off in SEO in the shadiest of shadiest pieces of the industry”, Brian says with a laugh. Brian eventually started implementing this newfound knowledge of SEO into his own affiliate websites, which quickly became the main source of his income and allowed him to live off the revenue these sites were producing.
Tell us about your Day-to-Day at CBS
I don’t end up having to do too much managing of people, but instead, it tends to be a mix of fairly high-level technical SEO, creating content strategies, and coaching people. I spend time relaying notes back and forth to editors and auditing new designs to assure we are moving in the right direction. I have ended up building some of my own tools to be able to scale and quickly analyze data without having to wade through huge spreadsheets. I collect and store data from various sources in a database, and anytime anyone needs a specific insight, I can pull that information quickly and give insights on how to apply it. For instance, when an editorial team is working on an event, I can pull the correct topics and terms from our database and give them a list of priorities.
Do you feel that being a developer gives you an edge in SEO and Why?
Yes, I do believe it does for sure. I can build my own tools to allow me to scale my work. I understand the technical side better than someone who doesn’t have that background. I can communicate with our developers in a way that they understand, which allows them to see the goal of changes we make. I can also understand what they are working on and how to help solve issues that may come up in a way that works for search, site performance, and maintainability.
What will you be speaking about at SearchHOU?
I will be talking about how to utilize tools and APIs to automate and scale your work. It can become very tedious looking at data all the time and trying to sort through it manually. I’ll discuss how you can automate some tasks, mash up data, and find ways to speed repetitive processes. I hope that after hearing me speak, you will feel more comfortable with using APIs and know how to seek them out and leverage them to make your life easier and streamline your workflow.
Besides his vast background in search, Brian is also well known for his BBQ skills. When he can find the time, enjoys the occasional BBQ competition and owns an impressive number of smokers. Brian tells me “BBQ started as a hobby, and quickly turned into an addiction” Rumor has it, that those of you lucky enough to snag a seat at Brian’s SearchHOU talk are going to get to taste the fruits of his addiction by way of his infamous brisket. Brian is definitely speaking the Texan language of love by spoiling us with his BBQ. Brian also has two daughters’ ages 10 and 13 that definitely have their dad’s competitive gene. “My oldest is a competitive swimmer and my youngest is with a competitive dance team so, between the two of them, we stay pretty busy.”
Rae Dolan of PushFire says, “I’ve been in this industry for almost 20 years. I’ve known Brian for more than half that time. He’s wickedly smart on SEO, especially when it’s coupled with APIs and programming.”
Flat out – you’re doing yourself a serious disservice if you miss his talk.