Whether in an agency environment or inside a business, your SEO team is affected by where it’s placed within the organization.
But first, a caveat: there isn’t one correct answer for how every company or agency should do things. With that said, understanding the influences in play with certain organizational placements can help you make wiser decisions as you look at the logistics of categorizing an SEO team.
So what are the options for where you locate your SEO team?
Separate SEO department
We’ll start with the obvious answer. Let SEO be its own department. This works for medium to large teams that are able to have their own leadership structure and growth opportunities.
The benefits of having this team operate independently include being able to segment the department into functional groups, such as technical SEO, content marketing, link building, etc.
Another benefit is that SEO processes are not biased by another department’s focus. When recommendations come from the SEO department, the purposes behind them are clear and specific.
The strategy department, when present in a company or agency, is responsible for driving customer persona development and business insight research, and then turning those data points into actionable initiatives that will drive the business forward.
Having the SEO team under this department can be a symbiotic relationship. Since the strategy department is often on the leading edge of initiatives, having SEO as part of the department can ensure that SEO is being considered from the beginning. The strategy department also benefits from the insights derived from organic search audits and competitive analysis.
This is the team responsible for setting up domains, coding the website(s), maintaining the webpages, and more.
Being part of this department allows the SEO team to help direct optimizations and have better visibility into site content before it’s launched. This also has the benefit of making SEO part of the ongoing maintenance process.
The SEO team also gains visibility into the tech backlog, and a solid understanding of the implementation time available for testing and optimization.
The digital media buying and marketing department has components that align directly with SEO – specifically, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns.
Continuous coordination between PPC and SEO allows for building search engine results page visibility, and an understanding of where both PPC and SEO efforts should be enhanced to maximize conversion opportunities. Ensuring that top of page placements for relevant terms are achieved by the best methods possible can increase revenue, and lower ad costs.
Google’s algorithm changes around ranking websites based on content and design factors has increased the need for collaboration in executing an organization’s creative and SEO processes.
The coordination between copywriting and SEO has been very well documented and continues to be required for optimal results. However, a lesser known opportunity is available in collaborations involving site design and SEO. The visual treatment of content is now a key factor given Google’s updated ranking algorithm.
With this new factor in play, housing SEO within the creative department can create a seamless collaboration between SEO, copy, and design, which will ultimately enhance search engine rankings.
The analytics department holds the keys to the data warehouse, and enables the organization to understand how customers are interacting with the site when they arrive via organic search results.
Data points are the basis of great search engine optimization. Without analyzing data before and after the optimization process, the SEO team is wading into murky unknown waters. Even when launching a brand-new site, the SEO team needs to work directly with the analytics department to make sure the data they need is there when they need it once the site launches.
Having this close and constant interaction helps increase the opportunity to make smart changes that drive conversions.
Place a relevant expert in each key department
Given the needs for specificity in SEO implementation mentioned above, another option is to embed a relevant SEO expert within each of the departments where they ought to have influence.
Because SEO touches upon so many specialties, distributing expertise across the organization can offer a host of advantages. Housing experts that can help guide optimizations in the relevant departments increases not only smart implementations, but can foster a testing culture in each of those departments, as they bounce ideas and discussions off each other while working together.
Other departments that need the SEO team’s ear, and vice-versa
The UX department (sometimes placed within creative or tech departments) needs to work closely with SEO experts in developing how a user interacts with the site, and the user experience once visitors arrive from search engines.
SEO experts, now more than ever, need to understand the conversations happening among their customers. What are they saying about their needs and issues? How can create content address those needs and communicate solutions to them?
Social strategists can help the SEO team understand those dialogues, and connect the right content with the right customers.
When providing SEO services to the organization, or to an outside party in the case of an agency, ensuring that SEO tasks are accounted for from the beginning and properly resourced is vital to success. Confirming that the SEO team is on the same page as far as the tasks being performed and the level of engagement involved also means scheduling adequate time to capitalize on the identified opportunities.
Regardless of where your SEO team is housed, the key to this team’s success is constant communication. Keeping them in the loop on pertinent initiatives and ideas will allow them to head off any potential SEO issues, and to offer up implementations that will help the organization reach or exceed its goals.
Kevin Gamache is Senior Search Strategist at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands.