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Stylized icons indicated SEO search as well as different team member such as writers, managers, SEO experts

How to structure your in-house SEO team

Cross-functional collaboration is the name of the game for successful SEO, with everyone from CROs to project managers contributing their expertise.

- By Eric Carlson - May 23, 2024 Marketing Performance SEO

Stylized icons indicated SEO search as well as different team member such as writers, managers, SEO experts

Building your SEO team should be simple, right? Just get a couple people and tell them to get more eyeballs on your site.  

If that's what you think, oh, how wrong you are.  

An SEO expert’s day consists of meetings with people with completely different job roles, explaining the nuts and bolts of SEO to colleagues, staying on top of newsletters like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and about a thousand Twitter (yes, I still say “Twitter, not “X”) streams from John Mueller and Barry Schwartz, plus waiting with bated breath for Google’s next core update.   

SEO responsibilities are, after all, wide-ranging: You’ve got to be an expert in the product your company sells so you can identify the best keywords and selling points, you need fluency in web development so you can manage the technical aspects of your site that affect rankings, and you need to understand content specifically and marketing generally so you can see how the pieces fit together.  

Some companies rely on just one person for SEO, while others — mostly larger, mature companies with sophisticated websites with lots of pages — have entire SEO teams in place.  

When it comes to hiring SEO expertise, there are lots of options.  

Do you need an SEO team? 

If your business is just starting out, you can likely take on the SEO of your website by yourself: You can get a basic understanding of SEO from blogs and use basic SEO tools, and even rely on generative AI like ChatGPT to identify some keywords.  

But as your site becomes more mature and your business grows beyond what you can handle, you’ll need to find someone else 100 percent dedicated to SEO.  

Here’s the lowdown on your options.  

Hire an in-house SEO expert 

If you choose to hire an SEO professional to work in-house, you’ll have a dedicated brain that’s constantly focused on improving your website and driving traffic. This person (typically with the title of SEO manager) needs to be intimately familiar with your audience, your product, and your website, all of which inform creating a strategy to reach your goals. 

The drawback to hiring a one-man-band SEO is that they’ll be limited in their abilities and time. No matter how good a person is, it’s extremely difficult to be proficient in all the skills that SEO demands, plus they’ll have only 40 hours per week to spend on your site, which might not be enough to make a significant impact. (Expect more hours than that and you’ve got a great recipe for burnout.) 

Hire an agency 

If you go the agency route, you’ll get the benefit of an entire group of people who’ll be able to help — always a good thing because you’ll get multiple points of view and broad expertise. A team of experts will bring deeper knowledge of specific parts of SEO, like analytics, strategy, and outreach.  

There are significant drawbacks to the agency model, however. First off, an agency team won’t be as knowledgeable about your audience, product, and likely industry, which means they’ll need a lot of guidance from you. Plus, they’ll have other clients, which means you won’t have their undivided attention. Even worse, their client list could include a competitor.  

Then there’s the fact that there’s no shortage of dodgy (even sleazy) SEO agencies out there, and that’s always a bad investment (and might sour you on the entire idea of SEO).  

Before you commit to an SEO agency, get references from its clients (former or current), get details on how they plan to improve your site, and jointly agree to the goals you’ll set to define success.  

Hire an SEO team 

If you have a larger site or multiple websites you manage, an in-house SEO team might be the right option: You’ll get the benefits of an entire team of professionals who are not only proficient in all the minutiae of SEO but who can immerse themselves in the details of your product, industry, and customer base.  

The biggest downside to this plan? The price tag. A full-time team of experts does not come cheap. I recommend waiting until your company — and your marketing team — is far enough along in its trajectory to commit to supporting an entire team.  

SEO team structure 

If you’re building an SEO team, there are two basic ways to organize it, depending on how your workflow operates and what kinds of sites you’re working on: You can organize your team so every individual is an expert in their particular function, or you can separate your team according to different audiences they’ll work with.  

Role Separation Structure  

A team based on expertise is typically formed in a hierarchical structure, led by an SEO director (or manager), with groups beneath that person that focus on different aspects of the SEO work. For example, you’ll have one person dedicated to technical SEO, another will focus on content, a third will be devoted to analytics, and so on.   

This setup often works best for smaller teams because you can hire individuals for each specialization as your business grows.  

Vertical/specialty structure 

If you plan on organizing your team by vertical, you can have one individual or team that’s responsible for each aspect of SEO for different sites/topics/markets. For instance, you can have a product SEO team and a brand SEO team, or a different SEO team for different locations or markets — maybe you’ll break them up so one team covers North America and another focuses on Europe. Or perhaps you structure it so one team focuses on different sales audiences and another team tackles your corporate offerings, while a different team focuses on private sales. 

This setup allows each team to take ownership of their particular audience — a useful strategy if you have a diverse audience that has vastly different needs and messaging requirements.  

SEO Roles 

While of course there are a variety of skills and roles required with a robust in-house SEO team, generally they fall into these titles:   

  • SEO Manager (or Director) 
  • SEO Strategist  
  • SEO Analyst 
  • Copywriter 
  • Outreach Specialist 
  • Technical SEO 

If you’ve got a large SEO team with multiple people with the same title, then you’ll likely want to group them together, but if it’s a smaller group, then they can all work together as one team.    

SEO Manager/Director 

This person is an expert in all aspects of SEO. If you only have one SEO role for your company, this is it. Your SEO manager will oversee all SEO strategy and execution; as your team grows, this person will lead the team and communicate with other teams in your company, like product or IT.  

SEO Strategist 

Your SEO strategist plans your SEO work. They’re focused on the overall goals for your site and establish plans and KPIs to accomplish those goals, and can plot which keywords (or site, if you have multiple sites) need to be tackled first.  

SEO Analyst 

Think of your SEO analyst as your numbers expert: They review the data and analytics of your website and track what’s working and what’s not by gleaning insights from the data and then communicating the trends, wins, and opportunities to the rest of your SEO team. 


Your copywriter is responsible for creating content that’s useful and trustworthy for your audience, integrates your keywords, and reflects website goals. Content is still king for how search engines rank your website, so a good copywriter can make a huge difference for your SEO team. (Note that the copywriter might not sit directly on the SEO team — they could be on the content team but work closely with your team.) 

Outreach specialist 

An outreach specialist focuses on gaining and maintaining backlinks for your website. They’ll not only reach out to other websites to ask for links, but they’ll have suggestions for the content team on what types of content will drive backlinks.  

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO is rooted in understanding how search engines read and rank your website, so this team member makes sure your site can be crawled and organized in search results. For example, they’re on top of things like site architecture, duplicate content, and broken links. This person can also help your development team optimize your site’s speed by pointing out the issues listed in Google Search Console.   

Additional team input 

A successful SEO team can’t work in a vacuum because their work affects (and is informed by) teams across the company. Depending on how big your SEO team is and how your overall company is structured, it will need heavy collaboration with other teams. 

Here are a few roles that SEO will likely have overlap with: 

  • Project manager 
  • Content team 
  • Developer/Coder 
  • Designer 
  • Product team 
  • Sales team/CRO 

Project managers 

SEO has so many moving parts, with so many contributors and stakeholders, that you’ll likely need to tap a project management team (often sitting within the marketing team) to make sure everything runs smoothly.   

Content team 

As mentioned above, you might have a dedicated copywriter on your SEO team, or you might work in lockstep with writers on the content team. Typically, there’s a lot of back-and-forth between SEO and the wordsmiths and strategists who plan and generate web pages, blogs, reports, etc. 


Developers oversee the code and function of your website, so they often work hand-in-hand with the SEO team on site updates, particularly when it comes to optimizing code for site speed and crawlability.  


Since your site experience is a key aspect of site’s rankings, designers will also be involved in your SEO plans; they’re key to making sure the site works well and drives engagement. For example, a design that doesn’t give users an obvious next step can hurt click throughs and engagement on the site.  


Your website is often the first line of communication with prospective customers, and your sales team spends all day talking with them, so naturally you need alignment here. Knowledge from the sales team will help you zero in on the most convincing aspects of your company that you can then fold into the content and SEO strategies.  

If your company has a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) who oversees the sales team, they’re going to be involved in oversight of your web conversion rate, so they need a seat at the table with your SEO team, too.  

Product team 

It’s next to impossible to build and execute a successful SEO strategy without knowing the ins and outs of your company’s product or services; the product (or delivery) team can fill in a lot of the details about what you’re selling and keep you informed of updates and new features and offerings.  

Go forth and grow 

Now that you’ve got some ideas for building your SEO team, you can choose what structure will work best for your company. No matter how you create your team, it’s important that your SEO goals are based around your business goals and that you have buy-in from everyone on the SEO team, every other team you interact with, and of course with the leadership team.  Once you have everyone working together, your site is sure to improve on the SERP. 


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