Why SEO Is a Team Sport

It takes a squad of all-star players to succeed in SEO. Here’s how you can improve your batting average.
Headshot of author Jacob Hurwith
Jacob Hurwith
Expert Contributor
April 13, 2021
Updated: July 13, 2021
Headshot of author Jacob Hurwith
Jacob Hurwith
Expert Contributor
April 13, 2021
Updated: July 13, 2021

Unless you can code, design, write, analyze data and talk to customers every day, you need others to succeed in SEO. While there may be a handful of SEOs out there who can do all this and grow their own business, more often than not, you must rely on others to run a thriving SEO program when you’re working for a brand.

As we showed in our 2021 SEO trends, the goal of SEO is to not only get more organic traffic but also more leads for your business. To do so, you need to not only attract new users but convince past users to come back, and, at the same time, make sure they convert. That is why SEO takes a village, and that village consists of both acquisition and lifecycle teams.

Great SEOs Work With the Following Teams

  • Product
  • Development and Tech
  • Design
  • Content
  • SEM
  • Social Media
  • Data and Analytics
  • Sales

 

SEOs Work With Product

The most important relationship an SEO can have is with the product team. Depending on the size of your site or company, that may require you working with one, two or more product managers (PMs). Regardless of how many, you need to develop relationships with everyone on the product team because they decide what gets done.

Product is the lifeblood of a company. They are the ones juggling every single team’s priorities and making sure technical and product deadlines are met. The product team — or product manager for specific sections and functions — is likely taking in technical requests from the C-suite, sales, account management, development, SEO, SEM, social, PR, design, content, brand and any other department you can think of. They then have to prioritize all these requests against each other and decide what gets done now, later or never in some circumstances.

As such, you need to work hand-in-hand to make your product manager’s life as easy as possible. Learn how they like to work and prioritize tasks (through Jira, Trello, etc.). Learn how they like to communicate (through Slack, email or calls). Learn how they prioritize work (ROI, level of effort, etc.). After learning all this, continue to develop the relationship. Do not just throw an intro meeting on their calendar and be done with it. The more you cultivate the relationship, the more you’ll learn about each other’s goals and expertise — and you will get more SEO work completed.

More From Jacob Hurwith on SEOTechnical SEO vs. Content SEO: Which Works Best for Your Marketing Strategy?

 

SEOs Work With Developers

Once your SEO work is prioritized, it then moves over to tech or development. Developers make your grand SEO ideas a reality. Devs implement your new title-tag formulas across the site, edit your XML sitemap, show or hide dynamic content on the page and a slew of other technical and design SEO work. Without developers, your site would likely not change, and all SEO work would be limited to content.

Chances are, your product manager does not have the SEO experience you have. As such, after a Jira or work ticket is created for the development team, the dev will start work. While the work ticket should be as clear as day about what you want done — including the why, the what and the acceptance criteria of the task — chances are high that devs will have questions on a majority of your tickets. They will then come to you for clarification.

As you discuss your work, you must be crystal clear. Assume developers, and anyone for that matter, have zero SEO experience. Yes, you can change that with company training, but this angle forces you to take an explain-it-like-I’m-five approach (always a good strategy). After chatting, they will complete the work and either you or QA will check their work on a dev or staging site. Always check their work thoroughly.

While the process is long, this will ensure all work goes out correctly and no SEO mistakes will make it to production.

 

SEOs Work With Designers

Users land on various types of pages on your site. Some may land on the homepage or articles, while others may come in via directories or specific landing pages. No matter where they land, the end goal is always to get them to convert. A conversion may be submitting their personal information, creating an account or any other key business metric. Fortunately, if your site conversion is not as good as it should be, you have designers on call.

Designers — who are vastly under-appreciated at most companies — focus on user experience, conversion, branding and so much more as they design buttons, call to actions (CTAs), text, headers, footers and entire pages. As an SEO, it’s your job to determine if a page is not converting as well as it should. Once you find such pages, work with your designer and PM to determine alternative designs. Come up with A/B tests to run. See which creates more conversions, keeps users on the site, prevents bounces or any other metric you deem valuable.

Beyond conversion, designers also help you bring new SEO ideas to life. Within most SEO roadmaps, SEOs like to add new page types or bring in a bunch of new content at scale. To do either, you need a designer to bring your idea to life (or on the screen). You will then work with the designer to fine tune it and ensure it will help with traffic and conversion on desktop, mobile and tablet devices.

 

SEOs Work With Content

Content plays a major role in SEO. After all, while Google shares little about its secret algorithm, more often than not, it does say that content and links reign supreme. Content is still king in this world and the more authoritative content you have on your site, the more likely you are to rank for key business terms.

Unfortunately, while your content team may have expert researchers and writers, they likely have little SEO experience. This is where you come in. Successful SEOs don’t only provide keyword research to their content teams (based on keyword volume and interested topics), but also train and help content teams write SEO-friendly URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, H1s, H2s and so on. Furthermore, show content teams how to research SEO competitors, add internal links with strong anchor text and, most importantly, share what types of content are driving the most traffic and leads so they can replicate these strategies in the future.

 

SEOs Work With SEM

Unfortunately, while SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) are usually under the same marketing team, they rarely work together. Do not fall into this unfortunate trend.

SEO is effective, and, if done right, it will work over the long haul. SEO rarely works overnight, especially for brand new pages. However, for most brands, there are competitive search terms that demand immediate results. That is where SEM comes in. If your boss needs traffic to a new SEO landing page immediately, throwing some paid dollars behind it can get you there.

On the flip side, if you’re already the number-one ranking for key terms, why waste SEM budget bidding for those terms? In fact, according to Rand Fishkin, the co-founder of Moz and founder of SparkToro, “SEO still gets ~20X more traffic than PPC (SEM), and it doesn’t cost anything close to as much, so there’s still a massive advantage to ranking organically.”

As you can see, working with your SEM team can save you significant time and money. Take advantage of that — because most SEOs don’t.

 

SEOs Work With Social Media

As we’ve established, content and links are key Google ranking factors. Social media can indirectly help you garner more external links to your site. Yes, most social media links are no-follow links and, therefore, send no SEO juice to your website. However, if you share engaging and relevant content on your social channels — assuming it is quality work from your site — there’s a good chance more people will link to you on their blogs, emails, landing pages and so on. Those links are likely follow links and will pass SEO juice. Furthermore, while social media links may not directly help, more mentions on those channels likely do help SEO.

At Pubcon Pro 2017 (a popular SEO conference), Google’s Gary Illyes had a keynote discussion with SEO leader Eric Enge. Illyes discussed how Google might use online mentions of a brand to rank a site. The context in which you engage online, and how people talk about you online, actually can impact what you rank for, he said.

As such, work with your social media team and make sure they’re sharing your most engaging content. Any type of content, from SEO and PR articles to fun imagery and infographics, will work. The more engaging it is, the more likely others will mention or link to you.

More From Jacob Hurwith on SEO2021 SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore

 

SEOs Work With Data and Analytics

We are living in a data-centric world. More and more companies are moving to a data-first mentality, as they should. While most SEOs are proficient with Google or Adobe Analytics, most do not have the necessary data science or SQL skills to really get into the weeds of their data. That is where your data analytics team comes in.

Data analytics not only tell you how a user got to your site, where they landed, where they went, if they converted and so forth, but they also help peel back the onion by getting to the why. If your company is capturing the necessary data points, your data team can help you answer the questions that will alter your future roadmap.

If your company is not capturing important user behavior on your site, get that set up. Once it is, meet monthly with your data team to go over user trends. Think beyond traffic and conversion. Focus more on the user path (if User A reads this page, are they likely to go to Page One or Page Two?) as well as future trends (are more users reading AI articles vs. marketing articles?) that would change your priorities.

 

SEOs Work With Sales

Finally, the best SEOs work with sales to hear what potential customers are saying and asking. Good SEOs not only write about popular topics in the field, they also write about topics their customers care about, no matter the search interest.

As such, jump on calls with your sales team. Jot down questions they’re asking related to your product, industry or site. This is primo information for filling your content plan with new articles or insight into improvements for existing landing pages. So many marketers forget that we create content for users, and the best way to determine what they want or need is by actually talking to them. Your sales team is a great conduit for this communication.

Above, I’ve shown how it takes a team of committed players to succeed in SEO. Luckily, you and your village have the same goals in mind. Therefore, working with many teams will not only help you get to know operations all across the company, it will also help you reach and exceed your goals — and the company’s goals — as fast as possible.

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