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Understanding Where SEO Should Sit in Your Organization

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You know by now how important SEO can be for driving organic traffic. But where should SEO sit within your organization to drive the most impact?

Should you pair SEO with your creative team? The product team? Or maybe engineering and development? There are many different methods for housing SEO within your organization, and none of them is the perfect method 100% of the time. Something that works for another company, may cause further friction and silos in your organization. With that in mind, let’s dive into the different approaches and see which fits you best.

By now, just about everyone can agree on the benefits of strong SEO. A robust SEO helps drive new customers to your site, educate existing users with new content, and establish your brand as a respected, expert voice in your field.

But what many don’t agree on is where SEO should fit within your larger organization. Some companies have their SEOs report to marketing leads, while others house their SEO team within the web or engineering department, and still, other companies have SEO as their own team that supports the greater organization. There are pros and cons to each one of these methods, and indeed, some more methods that we’ll get into below. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to housing SEO within your organization, there will be a method that works best for you.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the different approaches for structuring and placing your SEO team within your organization.

Where should SEO sit in my organization?

Let’s get this out of the way now. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to structuring and placing your SEO team within your organization. As we’ll dive into below, there are multiple different departments you could have SEO sit within, and each method has some benefits and drawbacks.

Why does it matter where SEO sits in my organization?

Ultimately, your SEO strategy will be strongest when you have buy-in for it from across the organization. Too often, recommendations from SEOs, SEO best practices, and basic fundamentals are disregarded because sales, content, design, engineering, and other teams don’t fully understand an SEO’s goals or don’t see the full value in it. With this in mind, remember that you want SEO information to flow freely and not be siloed to one part of the organization or one team. After all, websiteWebsite
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optimization and SEO are really organizational team efforts and not just the product of one team’s efforts.

SEO as its own department

To kick things off, rather than having SEO under a strictly marketing or engineering umbrella, you can have your SEO team be its own department. This is a great way of aligning your search strategy with your overall business goals since the SEO team gets its own budget and isn’t beholden to the KPIs and priorities of specific teams.

In addition, this method allows you more freedom when building out your SEO department, as you can hire SEOs with different specializations, for example, a Technical SEO Manager who liaisons with your engineering or web team and an SEO copywriter who works closely with your creative team. Another consideration is the benefit of centralizing your SEO knowledge and tools under one expert umbrella. This allows your SEO team to move more nimbly and execute more efficiently but also makes it clear to others throughout the organization where to go for SEO expertise.

The trade-off for SEO being its own department is that a standalone SEO team runs the risk of becoming insulated from the needs and objectives of other departments. Without insights into larger business goals and information from other departments, SEO can become even more siloed across the organization than it already is in some cases. Secondly, with its SEO-only vantage point, SEOs can tend to lean too far into search optimization at the expense of the priorities and goals of individual teams or even larger businesses.

Generally speaking, large enterprise companies can get away with having such dedicated SEO teams because of their size and resourcing capabilities. That’s not to say smaller companies can’t do this; you just need to be sure that you can devote the proper headcount and resources to a strictly SEO-focused department.


  • Focused SEO expertise
  • Better alignment on core search strategy
  • Improved agility and SEO innovation
  • Centralized expertise and tools


  • Can lead to information silos
  • Can cause a narrow perspective from the SEO team

SEO within digital marketing

A fairly common method is to have SEO sit within the marketing department of your organization. Generally speaking, this method takes shape in two different ways: SEO within your creative team and SEO within your PR team. As you can expect, each has its own ups and downs, so let’s dive in more specifically.

SEO within the creative team

One place that often leads to friction in organizations is between copywriters, designers, and SEOs. SEOs will create content briefs that include information about what keywords a writer should target, what format a piece of content should take, and what questions the content should answer. Sometimes, writers take that information and use it to create a great piece of content. Other times, they ignore it or cherry-pick a few of the insights they feel make sense. Regardless, a great way to reduce some of this friction is to house SEO with your creative team. This ensures that the goals and objectives of SEOs are understood by the creatives and vice versa. Understanding, after all, is the best way to break down silos.

Another leg up for this approach to SEO structure is that SEOs will now have insight and ownership into performance data for content as well as the website experience. How a piece of content is performing after publishing is critical for SEOs to understand because it allows them to provide recommendations on content that should be optimized or pruned. When SEOs have insight into the website and user experienceUser Experience
User experience (or UX for short) is a term used to describe the experience a user has with a product.
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, it helps inform them of what is driving users to the site.

On the other hand, this method does have its drawbacks, specifically in the areas of creative team priorities and external communication. The priorities and KPIs of your creative team are, most likely, related to creating strong content that drives organic traffic and visitors to your site. Because of this, considerations like technical SEO improvements may be overlooked. Secondly, creative teams often lack the kind of external communication skills that a PR team would have. This hinders SEO because a large part of SEO is keeping up with and improving over your competitors. Things like content promotion, link building, and engagement with influencers go a long way in strengthening your SEO, but your creative team may not be best positioned to help there.


  • Ownership over the site and user experience
  • Improved collaboration between creative and SEOs
  • Visibility into content performance data


  • Content bottlenecks
  • Siloed from content outreach

SEO within the PR team

Housing your SEO team within the PR department is helpful for aligning your brand messaging across all of your channels. PR is a big consideration for SEO. After all, the better you can promote your brand and content, the more traffic your site will receive. Better traffic makes for better rankingsRankings
Rankings in SEO refers to a website’s position in the search engine results page.
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, which makes for happy SEOs. So, one big benefit is greater synergy between SEO and your content promotion.

In addition, increased visibility into content promotion gives SEOs a leg up in terms of influencing brand messaging. By housing these two teams under one roof, you give your SEOs the chance to have a say in how your brand is talked about externally, a rare opportunity to align that messaging with your larger website optimization goals.

On the downside, including your SEOs within PR and outreach can lead to pain points. For example, PR workflows and processes can be quite rigid due to legal and compliance concerns, as well as risk management for the overall company. You need to be very careful how you position your brand externally, and that rigidity can stall some SEO processes. Also, like the dynamic with the creative team, the PR team tends to prioritize external outreach and deprioritize technical SEO issues and other considerations, which can cause friction with SEOs.


  • Oversight over external brand visibility
  • Improved content and promotion collaboration
  • Greater influence on brand messaging


  • Disconnected from on-site experience
  • Rigid PR processes can stall progress

SEO under search engine marketing

Another option for placing your SEO team within digital marketing is to house SEO under your Search EngineSearch Engine
A search engine is a website through which users can search internet content.
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Marketing Team if you have one. Commonly, search engine marketing combines SEO and Paid advertising—sometimes called pay-per-click (PPC). While this is definitely a more specialized landing spot for SEO, there are key benefits.

Specifically, this approach allows you to align your organic marketing efforts with paid advertising beefing up collaboration and information sharing between the two teams. This also leads to unified data and streamlined reporting when it comes to overall team performance. Lastly, this method gives you the ability to reduce redundancies between SEO and paid advertising because the teams can share common tools and logins, data sources, and vendor relationships. In short, it leads to improved collaboration and more efficient use of budget and other resources.

On the other hand, this method of SEO alignment falls short in the following ways. One potential con is that by placing SEO with paid advertising, you run the risk of SEO being deprioritized. SEO typically drives results over time but not as much in the short term. Paid advertising offers the opposite benefit, where you usually see boosts in traffic quickly. This quick ROI on paid ads can lead to SEO being deprioritized. This method can also cause there to be gaps in expertise across the team, as the team leads most likely spent more time in their careers focusing on either SEO or paid advertising, and not both. Overall, this can cause friction between the teams just as quickly as it brings harmony as competing priorities and information gaps can start to crop up.


  • Alignment with paid advertising
  • Unified performance data and reporting
  • Budget efficiency and certainty


  • Possible underinvestment in SEO
  • Potential for friction between SEO and paid advertising

SEO within your Web or Engineering team

Whether you call it your engineering, development, IT, web, or some other department, housing SEO here is fairly common in large organizations. One key reason why is the oversight the SEOs have over any technical issues affecting optimization.

If you have a large website with a lot of pages and content, technical SEO may be a huge consideration for you, so grouping your SEO team within this department gives them an immediate line of sight into any technical issues and when they’ll be resolved. This approach to SEO team building also gives SEOs the ability to quickly test and iterate on important site enhancements and deploy optimizations at speed. Related to this is that your SEO team now gets visibility into the product roadmap and emerging site improvements, which they can leverage to inform their strategy.

Now, let’s get into the cons of this method, of which there are a few. For starters, SEO responsibilities extend far beyond technical considerations, and placing the team under engineering will place most of their focus on technical optimizations. This method also places a gulf between the SEO and creative teams. While technical SEO is hugely important for your website, SEO for written and designed content is also critical. There needs to be a balance between these considerations for SEOs, and housing them just under a technical umbrella can skew their priorities in that direction.

Ultimately, SEOs on the technical side run the risk of over-optimizing the technical side without enough focus being put on creating high-quality, helpful content, which should be the ultimate goal.


  • Direct access to technical implementation
  • Ability to test new ideas and scale efficiently
  • Early access and insight into new technical optimizations and technologies


  • Siloed from content creation and PR
  • Risk of over-optimization of technical SEO

SEO within your Product team

This method intersects a bit with the engineering method we discussed above. For starters, this approach gives SEOs a direct line to the product team and all of their internal data regarding users and the core product. This then allows SEOs to weigh in on user experience and optimize customer workflows to help drive website growth.

Another benefit of this method is that SEOs could now have early visibility into new features, apps, and websites that the product team may be pushing out. This allows SEOs to shape the organic visibility of these new offerings at the outset, rather than trying to catch up with the product later on. From there, SEOs can help prioritize and optimize the visibility of specific products and features to drive growth.

That said, housing SEO under the product team can lead to some pitfalls. First, unlike when SEO sits under engineering and development, the product team is less technically inclined in most cases and wouldn’t be able to assist as much in pushing out technical SEO optimizations. In addition, this method removes SEO from the content creation process, so while the visibility of certain products and pages may be optimized, the overall SEO health of your written content may be lacking. Lastly, when it comes to the Product team, the core product and user experience will almost always be prioritized over SEO optimizations, so it may make it difficult to complete SEO tasks efficiently.


  • Better alignment on customer experience
  • Insight into the product roadmap, feature launches, and the product lifecycle
  • Shared oversight of user and product data


  • Less oversight of content and technical SEO
  • SEO objectives may be de-prioritized

Alternatives to a dedicated SEO team

When parsing through the pros and cons of each of the previous methods of structuring your SEO team, you may find yourself thinking that none of them is the perfect method for you. And that’s fine! Plenty of organizations make do without a dedicated SEO team. Generally, they adopt one of two methods.

SEO experts on every team

One way to get around the common silo issues around SEO would be to have an SEO evangelist on every team. For example, you could have a technical SEO specialist sit with the engineering team while an SEO strategist with a focus on content sits with the content team. The benefit here is that your SEOs have specializations that complement the team they’re on, which should lead to easier collaboration and faster buy-in to SEO objectives from each individual team. This method makes it easier for teams to develop their SEO skills and tailor specific SEO strategies to team KPIs.

While this approach does reduce silos and make for better collaboration and SEO understanding, it’s not necessarily perfect. Right off the bat, an issue could be that if you don’t clearly and specifically make SEO the responsibility of a team, then you run the risk of SEO priorities getting passed over for other team priorities. Another risk is that each team will incorporate SEO in different ways and to different extents, meaning that you could have a disparate and confused SEO strategy across your organization. This also makes for stretched resources since SEO experts are now pulled in different directions. One is to drive towards important SEO objectives, while the other is focused on the needs of their specific team.


  • Reduced information silos
  • Customizable SEO strategies across teams
  • Flexible SEO support


  • SEOs focus is split across priorities
  • SEO messaging and oversight is inconsistent from team to team

Using SEO agencies

Finally, there are experts you can simply outsource your SEO oversight to. There are several agencies that will mold, solidify, and nurture your SEO strategy so that you don’t need to handle it in-house.

The key benefit of this method is that you’re dealing with SEO experts. This is what they do, they help companies optimize their sites and content for search. Also, since they deal with so many different clients and businesses, they have a broad perspective on new insights and trends within the industry. It also saves you, and your recruiting team, the time and trouble of finding candidates to fill in-house roles. Those resources can now be spent elsewhere in the business. This method is also easier to scale than many others because you don’t have to worry about hiring more people or allocating as many resources to grow the team.

However, this method isn’t perfect either. One big drawback of working with an SEO agency is that they don’t know your product as well as an in-house expert would. You’ll need to bring the agency up to speed on your product, strategy, goals, and current SEO foundation. An in-house team would have much of this understanding already, so on-boarding can be tedious. Also, while you will save resources by using an agency rather than staffing a team, you may not end up saving much, if any, money, as agency fees can sometimes eclipse what you would have spent on in-house talent. Finally, with an agency, you’re trading away control and visibility into your SEO strategy. If you want to oversee your SEO progress and strategy yourself, working with an in-house team may be preferable to you.


  • Specialized SEO expertise
  • A broad industry perspective
  • Easier to scale


  • Limited knowledge of your product and processes
  • Limited control and visibility into SEO strategy

Where SEO should sit in your organization in a nutshell

Ultimately, the choice is yours. That may seem like an unsatisfying answer, but re-read what we talked about above. Clearly, none of these methods is a perfect cure-all to your SEO pain points. Each one has clear benefits and trade-offs. The good news is, that to have a strong organic presence, you don’t need a perfect SEO strategy. SEO is all about adapting and optimizing something that isn’t working. With that in mind, get together with your team talk through the merits of each of these methods, and decide what best fits your specific goals.

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