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How should SEO fit into your company?
Like every other good SEO question, the answer is it depends.
But I recently went through this process for an e-commerce company and thought I should share how we ultimately structured it.
Of course, your mileage may vary, depending on the structures you already have in place and how many team members you have, but I hope this will be a good starting point.
A Few Fundamentals of an SEO Team
Content Should Be Its Own Team
Writers are different than most other marketers/business people, and they need their own space – both physically and mentally.
Don’t damage their creative process by giving them stupid commands like “use the keyword three times.”
I’ve seen far too many companies try to shoehorn SEO into a “content” or “content marketing” team, and it never works.
People who specialize in these two areas are often like oil and vinegar; they don’t mix.
Put PPC & SEO on Different Teams
While your PPC and SEO teams need to work together and share information, the mindset of the two disciplines is entirely different.
The needs of the teams are different.
The company will look at PPC as an acquisition channel and SEO as a cost center. (For the record, I disagree with this, but good luck convincing your boss otherwise.)
SEO Should Be Within E-commerce
It only makes sense. SEO is fundamentally a marketing discipline that takes place online.
Making SEO a part of Information Technology (IT) is a mistake. Many companies I have worked with have tried to make the SEO part of IT so it’s easier for that person to make technical changes.
However, doing this ignores the fundamental elements of marketing that are necessary for SEO to succeed – and reduces the brand and content writers’ trust and confidence in the SEO.
Your SEO Team Should Be Technical + Creative
Ideally, your SEO team should contain at least one person who is highly technical and one person who is highly creative.
These individuals should liaise with the IT and content teams respectively. Create a formal liaison or check in so this is sure to happen.
Very rarely, you can find a single individual who possesses both creative and technical skills. But finding a highly creative and technical person is rare, which also means he or she will be quite expensive.
Service vs. Product Teams
A lot of companies distinguish between service and product teams.
They look at product teams as being anyone who is responsible for the product itself – the development, packaging, distribution, and fulfillment – and service teams as being responsible for supporting the process.
This often includes content, branding, customer service, and yes – SEO.
This can make it very difficult for an SEO team to have any say in the naming or branding of a product, which is how we end up with things like a “top load clothing cleaner” instead of a “washing machine.”
Every good SEO knows that being involved in the actual naming and development of a product or service can save tons of time down the road.
ome companies react to this by making SEO part of the product team. Again, this is a mistake. SEO should be a service team – servicing all lines of business at all levels as needed.
How Does an SEO Service Team Work?
All joking aside, the SEO team is the great connector when everything works the way it should.
I like to think of SEO professionals as anesthesiologists. These are the doctors that are brought in whenever someone is going to be sedated.
They keep the heart pumping, the lungs inflating, the body functioning – while the surgery is taking place. They’re brought in for all types of surgeries, from heart to brain to orthopedic.
If you don’t have an anesthesiologist in the room when you do a heart transplant, it doesn’t matter how perfect that heart is – the patient is dead, and the heart will die soon after.
SEO should be brought in for a consult any time a major change is happening on your site, from a new product launch to a content restructuring to a new website design.
They need to be there to make sure you don’t kill the website (the patient) while you’re implementing the change (the surgery). If you think of it that way, SEO as a service line makes a lot of sense.
Don’t count on people to remember to do this. Build a series of check-ins and sign-offs for all of your processes.
Develop strategies together, let the team responsible execute on them, and make sure the SEO team is there to measure, refine and improve along the way.
Structuring an SEO Team
The ultimate strategy we came up with for this particular client was an acquisition department under an e-commerce VP, with SEO as a team within acquisition.
It looked something like this:
This was just the e-commerce part of the org chart (there are other sections for offline acquisition, IT, HR, etc.) and each section has their own breakdown (this piece of this chart represents about 120 employees).
Further, there are dotted-line connections between a lot of specific teams and individuals because we needed to formalize certain connections – between our Tech SEO team and the IT team for example.
Hopefully, this gives you some information and ideas to work with. I find that this is one of the biggest struggles my clients (particularly at the enterprise level) face – where does SEO fit?
The real answer: “Everywhere” isn’t conducive to running a company, so we have to be able to map it out.
A strategy similar to this seems to work pretty well, as long as you keep the fundamentals of SEO in mind.
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