SEO and SEM Team Structures

In large companies where there are typically multiple people handling search engine optimization and marketing efforts for multiple sites, there may be an inclination to decentralize the efforts. The theory is that decentralizing allows the people closest to a particular site to make decisions based on their knowledge which should be more accurate than anyone else's. There is a common flaw in this arrangement.

While it's true that removing bureaucracy will help an SEO or SEM get his job done more efficiently, if there is no sharing of knowledge between the different teams, the group as a whole will fail to achieve the level of expertise one might expect. This aggregation of learnings has to be built into the policies and the procedures that govern each team's activities.

It may seem obvious that teams need to communicate, but in practice companies fail to facilitate such communication. A typical arrangement has SEOs and SEMs assigned to teams that have a certain sphere of responsibility likely mapped to a particular division's line of business. Each of these teams goes on its merry way doing the best it can and they often achieve some level of success. And because efforts are successful, there is no pressing need to check in with other teams to see how they're faring even though doing so could make all the teams even more successful.

A more appropriate structure, in my opinion, follows the typical matrix set up used commonly by web development and design teams. In such arrangements there is at least one leader of a functional group i.e. a manager or director. This leader keeps tabs on all of the activities within each team and therefore is in a position to make sure information gets passed from one team to another. This central figure is also in the important position of being able to recognize similar problems shared by different teams allowing him to pool the necessary talent to resolve such problems. In addition, a matrix setup allows each functional team member to work with a wider variety of people than each member would normally be exposed to if assigned to a specific project team permanently.

I don't think there's anything earth shattering in what I've just written. In fact it's no more than what you'd get from reading a couple of pages from the Wisdom of Crowds book written by James Surowiecki. I just think some companies go astray when they're overly idealistic with their organizational structure and forget to ensure that there's someone responsible for keeping everything together.

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