Putting Together an SEO Team

SEO teamWhether you’re trying to put together your own firm or setting up an in-house team, building an SEO group is hard work. Every situation is different, and it would be impossible to cover everything in a single article, but it’s best to go into this with a road plan. Here are the essentials you need to know in order to get started.

Who You Need

When you’re hiring employees to meet SEO demands, realize that you’re looking for more than a job title. Universities don’t give away SEO degrees, and most of the people with the skill set you need have probably never even heard of search engine optimization, or at least given it any serious attention. With that in mind, here are a few ideas.

1. The SEO Consultant

While most of the people on your team won’t even need to know what SEO is before getting started, you will need at least one person who is very knowledgeable about the subject. Despite all the advances in the search engines to focus on branded sites, it’s still important to have technical knowledge of how the search engines work.

If necessary, you may outsource to an SEO consultant who works with many clients, as most people do, in order to train your team. In-house SEO consultants do not come cheap. The downside of training, of course, is that you will still be lacking in expertise if you do not have a full-time in-house SEO. It may be necessary to work with the consultant on an ongoing basis for quite some time before your team is able to take care of itself. Keep this in mind.

Your SEO consultant should understand concepts like domain authority, link building, keyword research, and search engine updates. They should be able to train your team on the difference between artificial search engine results (which are likely to be lost in future updates), and natural search engine results (which should stay successful over the long haul).

2. The Project Manager

The SEO consultant isn’t necessarily the best person for this job, although they often are. The project manager sets goals for the SEO team, goals that are often more business-centric than the goals an SEO consultant might set. The project manager should understand how to build company culture in order to unify SEO and branding efforts.

Oddly enough, the project manager of an SEO team doesn’t necessarily need to have tremendous experience with SEO, provided they have a close and trusted SEO consultant. However, the project manager should have marketing experience, preferably some experience with digital marketing. A social media marketer is likely your best bet, though you shouldn’t necessarily discount somebody who worked with pay-per-click ads. An email marketer can also be a good bet.

3. Content Creators

Nearly every sound SEO strategy places a central focus on content, because the penultimate goal of SEO is to establish your brand as an authority in the topics that are relevant to your target audience. Content creators can be hard to find, in large part because very few of your ideal employees in this area will be seeking jobs in marketing.

Your best bet here is to simply hire people who are already attracting attention online with their content. Rather than putting out a job listing or browsing the online marketing forums, try doing a Google search. Look for bloggers who have a decently sized audience, a natural link profile, and a consistent posting schedule. Ideally, hire bloggers who already write about topics relevant to your target audience, and who will fit your company culture. If you can, purchase their blog as well, and redirect it to your site. This will work wonders for SEO and audience building.

The same goes for any other type of content creator, whether it’s a graphic designer, a video specialist, or a photographer. Don’t focus on working with “marketers.” Just focus on people who have built an online following.

4. Outreach Specialists

Relationships are just as crucial to attracting online attention as content, if not more, so outreach is a must-have. Your outreach specialists will be contacting prospects for link building opportunities, building online relationships with influential people, and interacting with customers and audience members for online culture building.

Again, your outreach specialists don’t necessarily need to know anything about search engine optimization before you hire them. Look for people who have a strong social media and online forum presence. The key is to work with people who love to interact with strangers online, and who have managed to build solid relationships by doing so. Any experience with customer service or telemarketing is also a major bonus.

5. Analysts

Finally, you’ll need at least one data expert who knows how to measure results. Somebody with some SEO knowledge is preferable, but the primary focus should be on their ability to tease out insights from data. If need be, your SEO consultant can train them.

Your analyst’s primary job will be to analyze SEO processes and determine which ones are having the most impact. Statisticians and market researchers are a good fit. Economists, financial experts, and even many engineers should also be able to tackle the job effectively. The important thing to look for is the ability to work with large data sets and separate cause from effect.

Your analyst should be able to help you identify which strategies are most effective at building links, leading to conversions, building traffic, and so on. Somebody with a bit of coding experience and the ability to set up split-tests would be ideal.

A Few Things to Understand About SEO

There’s no way to cover everything you need to know about SEO right now, but there are a few crucial things you need to get before you even start taking steps toward building a team:

  1. SEO is not Cookie Cutter – This is probably obvious from the job descriptions above, but there’s no linear solution to SEO problems. SEO campaigns require both technical and creative skills, and must consider branding as well.
  2. SEO “Packages” Don’t Work – Search engine optimization is a dynamic process that must adapt to your brand, and the way that search engines and online culture change over time. Simply buying a package of links, even “hand built” ones, doesn’t get the job done.
  3. The Principle Goal of SEO is Thought Leadership – Search engines work by trying to identify the most influential and relevant page on the web every time somebody performs a search. It’s important to meet those requirements both technically and qualitatively in order to be successful today and tomorrow.

Keep these three ideas in mind as you put together your team.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yuri Arcurs

About Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, OnlyDesign and Moveo. He’s passionate about fitness, start-ups, entrepreneurship & all things digital marketing. Catch him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik or by emailing on web@pratikdholakiya.com to discuss on any of these topics.

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8 Comments

John Rampton

Great post about building a team. I think being an outreach specialist is a large key that most people overlook. You need those people on your team!

Cady Haren

Great post Pratik but often times what happens is that organizations are too crunched with work and hence people have to multi task.

At such times, you can’t have a separate outreach specialist or for that matter an analyst and people have to contribute to both on page as well as off page activities.

Cameron Whitaker

It’s important when meeting with potential clients that the SEO consultant is always present. Often companies will hire a great salesman who knows very little about SEO and it can cause problems. Most commonly not properly managing potential clients expectations. If you are going to work for an SEO company no matter what area you are in it’s important to understand SEO.

Eilidh MacRae

One of the key elements to a successful SEO campaign is creating brand new quality content. This is why I believe that having in house writers is essential to any SEO team.

Andrew Kelly

You are right when you say that there are technical and creative skills involved in SEO, and I agree that all these members are important for an SEO team. But today, it is really expensive to build such a team in the U.S. What is your point of view about outsourcing to other countries? I have built my team through an online freelancing website and most of my employees are from Pakistan and India. Yes, i have had bad experience with some contractors, but when you finding the right freelancers, it gets really easy as well as economical.

Richard McGovney

I like how you structured the SEO team. Even for those with a smaller budget I think this is a nice way to break-down the activities required of the lone-wolf SEO.

Simon Abramovitch

Nice recap; lots of truth in here. I particularly like the “thought leadership” phrasing. SEO cases have recurring themes, but different sites always have different problems that require adaptation.

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