Where should SEO sit within a company? Historically the answer to this would have been an extension to the digital marketing team, in some cases even in I.T, and always siphoned off as a separate marketing element.

This approach, born of technological black-hat tendencies is, like so many in the industry, outdated.

SEO structure

Brands that achieve the best results from SEO are those that take it seriously as a measurable tangible and transparent way to generate traffic for their site and leads/sales for their business.

SEO now requires a unified approach. It must overlap all aspects of a business’ marketing strategy in order for the full benefit to be felt (pictured below).

SEO delivers the most ROI when it is able to use and build upon a company’s wider marketing and PR activities.

SEO in a business

This is because best practice SEO now incorporates skills across the board from marketing, public relations, communications and sales.

It should be a joined up process that might start with digital marketing and PR but which should end with your sales department feeding back information about the quality of leads and volume of new business that SEO instigates.

This is not the case in most companies though. The importance of this inter-departmental collaboration is not emphasised to their teams, making cross-organisational collaboration even harder to coordinate. 

Search marketing has moved away from black-hat spammy techniques, which could be undertaken in a siphoned off department within a company or detached completely in an external agency – to become more in line with traditional marketing practices.

This has seen SEO as a term being phased out of many marketer’s vocabulary, with ‘content marketing’ and ‘online PR’ the two frontrunners as its replacement.

content marketing trends 

This change of phrase is a recent phenomenon (see above) and reflects the switch from the focus being solely on links (pre-Penguin) to the creation of high quality, relevant content that naturally attracts links (post-Penguin).

Again this demonstrates exactly why SEO, whether carried out in-house or at an external agency, needs to be seen as integral part of a company’s overall marketing strategy.

A working example of the benefits of taking this approach is when a brand’s PR agency is running a campaign that is generating a lot of coverage then the SEO agency should be informed of this in order to ring around the publications where coverage has been gained and turn these mentions into links.

The same rings true for an advertising campaign that is likely to generate coverage online – the SEO agency needs to know about this beforehand.

SEO, PR, advertising, marketing and sales teams are ultimately all working towards the same goal: to generate new business.

Therefore it makes sense for these teams to work together and make the most of one another’s ideas.

The SEO agency should know what the PR calendar looks like, and the PR agency should know what content the SEO agency is preparing. Again the same is true for marketing and advertising departments.

The results of a unified approach between all of a business’ agencies/departments are far greater than if they are fractured and separated. 

Jimmy McCann

Published 11 July, 2013 by Jimmy McCann

Jimmy McCann is Head of SEO at Search Laboratory and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with him on Google+

6 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (17)

Save or Cancel
Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

I'd argue that SEO needs to be an even wider effort than that (especially in retail), for example, I've seen problems in the past where product buyers change the name in the merchandising system to suit some legacy convention, which then means the product page isn't matching the search terms.

Another example would be stores being encouraged to update their Google+ page.

Stores could also be encouraging customers to leave reviews.

SEO should be a company wide effort.

about 5 years ago


Andrew Grant

Hi Jimmy

Interesting and timely post. You are right; ideally it should be a joined up process.

Unfortunately, in a lot of companies there are still wide divisions between marketing and IT, so changes in terminology are just new ways to pass the buck.

As the emphasis swings from SEO to content marketing, then responsibility falls to the marketing department, who all too often have to petition the web techs to get things done.

At the same time, the techs are saying, "not me, mate, this is a marketing function" and the actual SEO part of the equation ie making sure that all that great content is optimised and focused around core keywords, starts to fall through the cracks.

I'm so glad I work for myself!


about 5 years ago


Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing

In my experience SEO can fit into just about every other form of marketing you do for your business, in one way or another. That's why you can't silo your SEO efforts---other departments influence your SEO success, even if you don't realize it.

about 5 years ago



Great article thank you! I have dealt with this for a long time and it seems no matter which tasks I take on, I end up managing SEO in some way, shape or form. Making the transition from content copywriter to social media management certainly proved to me that SEO is everywhere!

about 5 years ago


Jamie White

Good article Jimmy. It's something that I think should almost be common sense nowadays, but it's surprising how many companies disregard SEO as simply a bolt-on function of their marketing efforts, rather than being totally integrated and immersed within it.

I agree with the point that Stuart made above about it being even wider than this. We're at the stage where companies should be thinking of their website as basically a virtual replica or their bricks-and-mortar store, and anything they'd do in-store should also be done online - product changes, brand changes. Obviously in some cases there is no physical location and the online presence is the first point of contact, however there are always things going on 'behind the scenes' which can affect the SEO campaign.

about 5 years ago

Laura Hampton

Laura Hampton, Digital Marketing Manager at Hallam Internet

I agree with Stuart; SEO impacts an entire business and should be a part of every department and something which is on everybody's radar.

That said, great article and really useful to see that perspective laid out so clearly. Thanks.

about 5 years ago

Jimmy McCann

Jimmy McCann, Head of SEO at Search Laboratory

Thanks for all your comments.

Stuart, I agree to gain the maximum benefit from SEO then the agency/in-house team needs to be kept up-to-date with any changes within the business that could affect it.... i.e. product name changes as you say.

about 5 years ago


Andrew Areoff

I find that clients often ask up-front for a website that has "good SEO" or will be "top of the search engines". However, when it comes to the crunch they are often put off by the potential cost and long-term, permanent nature of SEO and the fact that it is quite naturally a holistic part of the whole online strategy.

I think the problem stems from the fact that clients don't really understand what SEO is, how it is well implemented and why it is a long-term job, rather than a fix it and forget it task to be done shortly after the website goes live, or at same point when the site has been live and the client then wakes up to the fact that they're getting no traffic and leads via search engines.

So it is for us in the industry to explain SEO, how it works, its importance, and of course the real benefits that can be reaped if it is done properly and that it is for the long term. In a jargon-free way of course.

Now that's quite a tall order, especially for us smaller agencies, freelancers and artisans who don't have the budgets to do an Apple and turn the complex into understandable, and, Sexy.

about 5 years ago

Luigi Moccia

Luigi Moccia, Director at Calashock Digital Ltd

Thank you, great article.

Marketing is all about communication, and it is surprising how this fails when it comes to interdepartmental strategies. You are right that successful SEO is no longer controlled by a stand-alone web strategy, but should form part of a company wide marketing plan, which all marketing departments and/or agencies should follow.

Strategy and communication are the 2 most important elements in ensuring an SEO campaign with a positive ROI. It's rare these days that PR or advertising campaigns are executed 'off the cuff' and in very short time periods, so there is always time to consult and involve those responsible for SEO.

Protocols should be put in place to ensure the SEO strategy can align itself to other marketing plans (PR/advertising/product launches), and seeing as SEO is an expensive (albeit if done properly, profitable) marketing platform, you'd think greater attention would be given to ensuring it is working efficiently and effectively.

about 5 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

Brilliant post, Jimmy. Something that I feel very strongly about and wished more people shouted about.

When talking to people about my approach to SEO, I say that the Marketing Director of yesteryear used to invest £x in the PR department, £x in the Content department, and a separate £x in the SEO department, but these days, as SEO as a supportive element of PR, Content, etc., it should really be treated as such - coinciding and relating to (almost) all areas of IT/marketing, rather than being treated as a separate, siloed activity. Good work!

about 5 years ago


Steve Logan

The role of SEO has shifted over the years. I worked in an agency environment for a long old time, providing 'content marketing' that was almost entirely independent of any other marketing or PR work that clients were conducting. In short, it wasn't working - and for all of the reasons you've stated above.

In my current role as an in-house online marketer, I can oversee the PR, marketing, content and even email campaigns to ensure that everything works together. SEO has a part to play still, but the days of going out and getting links for the sake of getting links are numbered. I could spend a week just contacting sites and looking for small wins, or a couple of days creating a cohesive promotional campaign, sending press releases to relevant publications and actually having a targeted effort. One will provide a little boost in domain strength, the other will do the same while also helping to bring in visits and grow visibility. It's a no-brainer.

Great article and very relevant for me at the moment. SEO is a consideration among a multitude of other marketing avenues. It shouldn't be looked at in isolation, but as part of a collective effort. Every plan needs to involve what the overall impact is likely to be as well as a best and worst case scenario. So even when marketing offline, you should be thinking about how it can benefit you online, where those links may come from etc.

about 5 years ago

Martin Dinham

Martin Dinham, Managing Director at Channel Digital Limited

Thanks Jimmy, all definitely true, although I'd debate whether the historical"silo-ing" of SEO was down to "technological" black hat tendencies" - I'd suggest its shift away from this might simply be a natural evolution as businesses understand the value of SEO more, as well as the service itself developing.

I do though think that the SEO industry is doing a poor job of differentiating itself from content marketing and agree with Stuart here. Content marketing is a major part of SEO, but they're far from being the same thing and anyone responsible for SEO needs to think about far more than "just" content creation.

about 5 years ago



Wonderful review!

Search Engine Optimization Is really an exciting field and one always need to be in the race. Teamwork can lead to better business outcomes. But what if there is no mutual understanding between each department. Then it ends up with a big mess. Thanks for this post. Keep writing.

almost 5 years ago


Michael- SEO St. Charles

Great article, I find that most companies think that SEO can happen in a day or two. They don't realize that its an on going process that takes time. Having good content will help greatly with your SEO. Thanks for the post!

almost 5 years ago


Sandra Geo

Nice post! Brands that achieve the best results from SEO are those that take it seriously as a measurable tangible and transparent way to generate traffic for their site and leads/sales for their business.

almost 5 years ago

Steven Wilson-Beales

Steven Wilson-Beales, Content Strategist at Consultant

Completely agree Jim - well written!

As a Content Strategist I would say that all companies are siloed in some way in their business, except Lean start-ups perhaps. When I look at ways to improve their approach to content we often have to look at governance first and improving internal communication - so you are spot on here.

You are also right about how the term Content Marketing has become very fashionable over the last 2 years and this has had a mixed impact on SEO.

The emphasis on content (via Google Panda etc) has led people to suggest it's all about producing lots of content - but it can also be about reducing the amount of content you produce, really focusing on keywords and really nailing that audience - that's standard SEO practise in my books.

My point here is that Content Marketing has a tendency to obscure some of the finer detail that SEO raises. I recently tried to sell a content marketing approach to one particular company and they dismissed it because they thought all this emphasis on keywords was 'just a matter of hygiene'. They failed to see the opportunity around keywords. That's not a failure to see the benefits of Content Marketing - that's a failure to appreciate basic SEO.

So I'm extending your message here slightly - not only do SEO, advertising, sales and PR teams need to work together - but also UX, Content Marketers and Content Strategists. We can all benefit from the failures and successes in our particular specialisms and build better solutions for our clients.

thanks again - hot topic this one!

almost 5 years ago



Great article! i agree seo and pr go hand in hand with other, both teams need to work together to ensure maximum returns

over 2 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.