Lee Odden

Search Engine Optimization is a Team Effort

TopRank’s SEO Team in Paintball Gear

As much as companies find the need to outsource part or all of their SEO efforts, many do not have a clear picture of the value that comes from hiring an agency versus a full time, in-house SEO. While many consultants and some agencies offer “value meal” pricing and packages, the cost for a search engine optimization effort will vary based on the scope of the project, hours allocated, client side resources, web site technology and competitiveness of the market.

Web site managers that balk at monthly SEO retainers claiming they could hire a full time person for those costs to do SEO in-house don’t really understand all that’s involved with marketing a web site through search engines. Client side SEOs are more Project Managers than they are implementation experts and often get burdened with related tasks on top of continued internal education and evangelism. It’s a lot for one person to do and do well.

What’s important for companies to understand is that when hiring an agency for SEO, the value of the search engine optimization consulting service comes from a team effort. Agency structures vary, but my own experience is that when an online marketing client that involves a SEO component is brought on, it’s through the coordinated efforts of multiple people, disciplines and expertise that result in a successful program.

In the case of TopRank, when new SEO clients are brought in, an Account team is assigned. The account team includes a lead consultant and a project manager that are dedicated to the client project. There are also service specialists focusing on any of a number of different areas including: keyword research and list building, copywriting, code and server side SEO issues, web development/design, content promotion and link building, online PR and blogger relations, social media marketing and analytics. Some or all of the expertise array will be used depending on the project.

Finding a single person that has numerous client engagements under their belt with expertise in each of the areas above is unlikely. Certainly not for what it costs to hire the entire SEO team from a capable, experienced agency.

Here’s a quick check list of what functions and expertise a SEO team brings to a project:

  • SEO/Online Marketing Strategy
  • Client SEO Education and Training
  • Provide Tools for Client to “Sell” SEO Internally and Report Successes
  • Defining Campaign Goals
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Assessing Previous Tactics (Non Search Engine Compliant and Potential Spam)
  • Keyword Research
  • Inventory Digital Assets
  • Web Site Content Optimization
  • Coordination with Interdepartmental and Cross Functional Teams Client Side
  • Digital Asset Optimization
  • Code Optimization
  • Site Architecture and Server Side Issues
  • Oversight of Client SEO Implementation: Editorial and Code
  • Link Building
  • Content Marketing/Promotion Plan
  • Content Creation/Mashups/User Generated Content
  • Content Syndication
  • Web Analytics
  • Ongoing Performance Monitoring (Rankings, Traffic, Conversions)
  • Revising Optimization and Content Promotion Efforts and Consulting

That’s a tall order to fill for a team let alone a single individual.

Before all the talented solo SEO practitioners reading this post get too excited, I do want to emphasize that in many cases a single consultant or in-house practitioner can be the ticket for a SEO campaign. Web sites that only need tweaking and that already produce a variety of content can see progress over time without an entire agency team.

However, when dealing with a complex organization and web site, there is no substitute for the depth of experience, established processes and speed at which a SEO team can deliver results.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Well said Lee 😉 SEO consultants can be the ticket for large companies w/ existing dev teams / marketing managers etc… An outside team leader of sorts. There is no set answers (in-house / agency / consultant) to SEO – every situation is different and should be approached after looking at the pros/cons of each outlet IMO.

    & JEALOUS! I want to go paint-balling w/ SEO’s!

  2. I agree David, it really can depend on the situation and for most in-house SEOs or individual consultants, their role is as project manager as much as anything else. I think it was Todd Malicoat who wrote a good piece about that two years ago.

  3. Avatar Afzal Khan says

    Completely Agree, Online marketing is an effort from different specialist bringing together their expertise. However to my experience many Big organisations always believe in In-house SEO by hiring SEO specialist and building an Online Marketing Team within. They give least preferences to Hire an SEO Firm, but it is better to have both for getting maximum result.

    Morever as you said and I guess everyone will agree that Search Engine Optimization is a Team Effort, never been handled by single person, if so than that SEO Expert will be under immense pressure…

    Lee your artcile will really help people in taking decision quickly. As always great information by you, one more thing I follow you like as my mentor. Hope to get a chance of meeting you sometime personally.



  4. Lee you have hit the nail on its head.

    Search Engine optimization is a team effort where different abilities of team members combine to create synergy for the client which would not be possible with in-house solo person.

  5. The in-house teams work infinitely better, as they devote 100% of their time to a similar goal. The problem is that many people promote themselves as SEO experts and get wrongly hired and fail.

  6. Hey Todd, that goes both ways.

    People promote themselves as SEO experts to get wrongly hired by companies for in-house positions and fail as well. Then they call agencies to pull them out of the hot water until a “real” SEO person can be hired.

  7. Hi Todd,

    I agree with your views that companies hire so called SEO experts & regret later on in many cases. Moreover before hiring it is recommended to do a detailed research on SEO work for all such SEO Experts.

    Capabilities of SEO Experts can be easily measurable, if they are SEO Experts they must be able to answer and must have knowledge, experience in Check List which LEE mentioned “quick check list of what functions and expertise a SEO team brings to a project”.

    Capabilities of SEO Experts also includes in doing things organically without implementing any Black Hat or spammy Practices to deceive seach engine & claiming rankings.

    Few days earlier I came across a very good question on Linkedin and hope it will help to understand things.

    “Who can be called as an SEO Expert?” – LinkedIn


  8. Lee – you’re making me super jealous…if I lived in Minneapolis I would LOVE to work for you guys.

  9. LOL Adam, well you know you could always move. 🙂

  10. Avatar David Singer says

    Hi Dave,
    I totally agree with every word you say.
    People balk at paying monthly SEO retainer fees because they do not understand what they are getting. They think that if they can see an employee working away at the desk, they are getting more for their money.
    The peice that you wrote can really help with explaining the reality of life to those potential customers.

  11. Hi Lee, Well said. SEO is a team effort and here there are several team members technical skills involved to build a search engine friendly site.

  12. Don’t tempt me Lee, I love paintball – seriously though, you guys have some fantastic culture and team unity going on. That’s a great way to attract smart people.

  13. @Todd

    “The in-house teams work infinitely better, as they devote 100% of their time to a similar goal.”

    I wouldn’t blanket in house SEO as more successful … I managed an SEO division of 60+ very successful web site’s and worked with a department of more than twenty people. Realistically there were only five people that were actually good at their jobs … the others were good at looking busy, politics, schmoozing and good old fashioned BS.

    Since that time I have gone on to own my own SEO company and find that my skills have increased dramatically from wearing all the hats myself. Moreover, the quality of the work that I perform now, and the contractors that I have hired to work with me, has improved – a lot.

    I think that both in-house and independent SEO’s can be successful … but in both cases I believe the age old adage still holds true … “The Cream Rises To The Top ”

    However, independent SEO’s actually have it much harder than the in house crews … reputation management, honesty, integrity and ethics, are much more important to the long term success of an independent SEO than an employee – there are no safety nets when it’s you against the world, If you lose your reputation … you’ll have to go back to being an in house SEO … 🙂

    That’s It.

  14. It always helps when a client is updating their websiet. An SEO company can't be expected to know everything about a client's industry! Content writing from clients is good

  15. It always helps when a client is updating their websiet. An SEO company can't be expected to know everything about a client's industry! Content writing from clients is good


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