Is SEO Marketing?

In most organizations, SEO is typically considered a marketing function but should it be? The answer to this depends on the SEO needs of the company.

In a smaller organization or a company who’s primary online presence has less than 100 pages SEO efforts will primarily focused on the content aspects to organic marketing:

  • Keyword research – the research and decisions on which keywords to use will drive a lot of the content and marketing on a website
  • Content creation which can span multiple areas
    • Blog posts
    • Marketing landing pages
    • Product updates – content about new products and created to promote these products
    • Feature pages – marketing the features of products
    • Home page content – typically a heavy branding effort, but requires keyword research to choose target keywords
  • Meta data creation – Using SEO best practices in the title tags, meta description and headlines. While it’s a key responsibility of an SEO team, the primary skill after keyword research is essentially copy writing
  • Backlink efforts /PR

All of these functions are very common marketing efforts and therefore make the most sense for SEO to sit in a marketing team. In this capacity the SEO individual (team) will be sit alongside content writers, paid marketers and PR. Reporting into a marketing leader, they will focus on the free search aspect counterpart to what the other team members do.

SEO for larger sites and companies

However for larger sites where much of the SEO will typically be product or engineering related, having the SEO team sit under marketing could make it challenging to both implement changes and be aware of challenges. The types of things the SEO team will work on in these companies will be more focused on the following than just content (which will also be a part of their job):

  • Migration planning and implementation – large sites will always be moving something as priorities change
  • Product build outs – these could consist of microsites, launches of new products or simply a constant cadence of refreshes and rebrands. In larger companies the product silos will be larger and every PM will have a preference to how they showcase their product
  • Architecture and taxonomy – the larger the site the more organization matters. Think of how clean the architecture of an ecommerce site might be and how terrible it could be without a lot of though paid to taxonomy.
  • International – This usually requires one person alone to focus on as there will be many moving parts that are driven by translations, currency, and even domains – all product related.
  • Competitive research and reporting – the more complex the company might be, the greater the need for customized SEO reporting might be.
  • Education – In larger organizations there is a need to have constant education as there will always be new people unaware of SEO requirements that have the potential to affect organic traffic.

In these larger sites, it might make sense for the SEO team to either be a part of a product team or even better on a growth team which sits between product and marketing.

From my experience, SEO has been most effective when it is in the same reporting line as product, but most companies actually put SEO within marketing.

In short, is SEO marketing? It really is contingent what the key levers the SEO team will be using to drive growth.