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6 Things I Learned About Building An In-House SEO Team

6 Things I Learned About Building An In-House SEO Team
Written by Publishing Team

I spent the first six years of my SEO career on the same in-house SEO team. During that time, the team has undergone many changes, as it has evolved and adapted in an endless quest to come up with the most effective ways of working.

In the beginning, we were a small, small team operating largely in a silo.

But by 2020, we were a team of seven, including the senior and specialist roles. We are fully integrated into the digital department across processes and ways of working.

From my early days in SEO to my time as part of the leadership team, I’ve been a part of all the ups and downs and learned a lot about what it takes to prove the value of an SEO investment – and make that investment pay off.

Here are the most important lessons I learned.

1. Nothing happens without buying

If you take one thing from this article, make sure it’s this: It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how much more hands you need on deck.


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You won’t get a chance to grow your team or increase your budget without buying from people who can give you these things.

For this you need credibility.

This comes over time, from good subject knowledge, insights, judgment, and the ability to consistently demonstrate these qualities.

But there are things you can do to put yourself in a strong position to accelerate the building of that reputation.

2. Hulk is your friend

First of all, you need a structure in three main areas:

  • reliable data and consistent approach to reporting.
  • priority comprehensive strategy Based on entire site audits, decide what you’ll be working on and, most importantly, what you can’t address yet (due to dependencies, budget or resources).
  • regular rhythm To communicate with your progress.

The advantage of creating this structure around your SEO program is that it has the ability to protect you from unexpected changes in your organization.

For example, if there are leadership changes in your department with new managers looking to assert their own approach, a strong foundation and a clear plan often means a stronger rationale for any disruption.


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It can create an opportunity for your team to grow its influence and accelerate its development.

3. You should “move the needle”

The next thing you need is a proven track record.

This may seem far-fetched if you are overwhelmed and understaffed.

Trying to make progress across the board, distribute yourself too thinly, and ultimately fail to make a real impact anywhere will not prove that you need more resources to anyone but yourself.

Instead, communicate with your manager about the projects that you will prioritize, and explicitly indicate which areas you will not work in due to capacity limitations.

With a more focused scope, you can then demonstrate the impact you can make with the right workload and let them deduce the return they can get from investing in the SEO team.

This step allows working on more projects simultaneously.

4. Build a compelling business case

You should also be able to take advantage of this foundation, ask for what you need and convince people to give it to you.

SEO, by nature, is expansive and ever-growing. It can be hard to tell if you’re truly under-resourced, or overwhelmed by the endless possibilities and threads you can attract.

By estimating the potential ROI of projects that will unlock the additional capacity, you will be able to confirm that you really need more people and make a strong case for expanding your team.

Of course, as with many aspects of SEO, ROI can be complex and difficult to calculate. Results cannot be guaranteed in the same way as other digital marketing channels.

In addition, many of the initiatives we need to work on are not necessarily about incremental growth, but rather about following best practices and protecting long-term performance.

Two key tactics helped us put some numbers into projects we knew were important, and demonstrate the need for increased capacity.

Provide the expected return on investment as a range

In the best case scenario, what is the potential impact of this activity?


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What if the result is more modest than expected?

The truth is probably somewhere in between, but communicating a set of results allows you to be transparent and honest without over-promising or underestimating potential outcomes.

For example, one of the methods might be:

  • Define keyword list Your project will affect.
  • For each term, predict potential clicks Multiplying your monthly search volume and estimated CTR on different positions (eg, three positions higher, five positions higher).
  • Subtract any existing traffic These terms are driven from these projected totals to calculate a higher and lower estimate for traffic height.
  • Optionally, apply conversion rates And average spending figures to calculate revenue increase.

Calculate the cost of doing nothing or reversing the ROI

If the project goal is to protect your SEO performance from future algorithm updates or stay ahead of your competition, use the same approach described above, but based on loss of position.

Being able to identify the benefit helps not only increase your ability to communicate the value of the work your team does (and can do) but also helps build your authority and credibility.

By the way, it’s also very valuable when competing for priority setting with your organization’s development team for example!


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Hire the right people

So you have consent to increase the number of your employees. What now?

Depending on the salary you can offer, you will need to be realistic about what level of experience you can expect from applicants.

With this in mind, your business case and strategy, begin creating a job description with the types of responsibilities the role will have.

When hiring for more entry-level jobs, consider whether specific SEO experience is really vital.

It is possible to learn SEO on the job, but the qualities that make someone develop into a great SEO practitioner — curiosity, love of learning and problem-solving, flexibility, and diplomacy — can be much more difficult to teach.

For roles that require more experience, you still need to make sure that you are looking for the softer skills above, but you should also assign tasks that require candidates to demonstrate the required skills and subject knowledge for the responsibilities they will have.

It is essential to ensure that interviewees are qualified to perform this assessment – seek the assistance of experts from outside your organization if necessary.


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Attempting to gauge a candidate’s experience when the interviewers’ experience exceeds is next to impossible, and a bad appointment can create difficult situations that are difficult to resolve.

It can be deceptively difficult to find candidates who balance existing experience and knowledge with responsiveness to further learning and the humility required to truly collaborate – in the words of Dan Patmore, Senior Director of Group SEO at Sainsbury’s Group,

“Some SEOs want to be right. I want people who want to learn.”

Above all else, keep the importance of internal engagement at the forefront of your mind when bringing anyone new to your team.

Is this someone who can add to your team’s credibility and authority within the business, instill confidence in your leadership team, and foster cross-functional collaboration?

Or is there a risk that it could damage your team’s reputation and relationships?

Lead a growing team

There are hundreds of books devoted to how to manage teams.


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But for me, the ultimate goal of team development is to become more than the sum of its parts.

The way people on a team work together should elevate everyone above the skills and abilities they bring on their own.

Shared values

The approach required to achieve this aligns with the recruitment approach, outlined above: prioritizing values ​​above all, treating SEO as an ongoing learning experience, and emphasizing the importance of honesty and collaboration.

In order to create this environment, you need to practice micromanagement mentoring, focus on developing and guiding your colleagues through their careers, and manage a proven and effective team in which individuals feel valued.

This is especially important in search engine optimization (SEO) teams, as many of the qualities that make someone a perfect fit for this system can also cause them to resist more bossy leadership.

Lifelong learners tend to question assumptions and come to their own conclusions, and problem solvers like to improve processes rather than being forced to do things the way they have always been done.


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And those with an inherent curiosity like to be allowed to investigate the shadows and uncover new insights.

Stifling these instincts in favor of having more control over your team will not only make them miserable, but you will also lose their ideas and perspectives (and miss out on opportunities).


So how do you make sure everyone is heading in the right direction?

Like anything else, this is up to purchase, except this time, you need to get support from the SEO team itself. In practice, this means that you should:

  • be transparent In sharing your strategy with your team, the same way you share it with your top stakeholders.
  • As individuals on the team grow in experience and bring their valuable perspectives and areas of expertise, Involve them in creation of strategy.
  • Make sure everyone knows where to focusWhat are the goals and why? Agree on expectations for results and milestones, including deadlines. This structure is essential to keep things on track while allowing for creativity.
  • Maintain a backlog of projects To be scoped and prioritized at a later time. This allows your team to bring you new ideas and listen to them without disturbing existing priorities.

In the end, my North Star in building a team and leadership has always rested in confidence. I want to hire people I can trust and I want to earn their money in return.

I want to encourage my team to trust each other, and I want everyone to feel trusted.


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If you can achieve this, you will end up with a team that works collaboratively to achieve common goals, challenges itself to be its best, develops its own strengths and disciplines, learns from each other, and generates ideas and innovations that will advance your SEO program for the future.

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Featured Image: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

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Publishing Team