How to build an in-house search marketing team

Building, growing and maintaining an in-house search marketing team can be a challenge for any organization.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, “How to build an in-house search marketing team,” I will address each of those issues, as well as outline different organizational structures that will give an in-house team the best possible chance to succeed.

Getting the org structure right

When you’ve decided you want to either bring search in-house or formalize a team from staff spread throughout the organization, the first step is to determine what the search marketing team will focus on. Once that is decided, the second step is to decide how the team will work with the rest of the organization.

Typical components should include search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), content, social and email and may span business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business ( B2B) or both.

You may also decide the team should have dedicated resources, such as developers or project management, in order to ensure that projects the team works on are implemented.

Teams and structure

The embedded team

If you have existing search functions within the organization, this is more than likely your starting point.

Product area A will have its own SEO and SEM specialists, product area B its own, and so on. There may be some cross-team collaboration and communication to share learnings, ideas and tools. While this means the teams are subject matter experts (SMEs) on the product areas they work on, it does mean that their growth opportunities, in terms of specialist knowledge and career path, may be limited.

The centralized team

With a centralized team, they all report to the same in-house search team. This can be set up in several different ways.

Each team member may have primary responsibility for one or more websites or product areas, in which case they’d be SMEs in those areas.

Typically, if the team is small, they could operate on a trouble ticket system, working on the highest-priority issues regardless of the site or product.

The matrixed team

A matrixed team is the “happy medium” between the embedded and centralized teams.

With a matrixed team, there is a central in-house search team structure, but the team members are still embedded within the various functional areas, as in the embedded structure. Typically, they are “dotted lined” into their product areas and will be treated as a member of that team but will have the structure of the in-house team to provide additional support.

Where to put search marketing

Once you’ve decided on the structure and the functional areas contained within the team, you then must decide where the team should exist in the organization. The appropriate decision here will depend on the rest of your organizational structure, the processes you have in place, the functions you place within the team and the leadership structure within the company.

There’s no sense placing the team in an area of the organization where they won’t be effectively supported.


While this may seem like the ideal fit, given that search marketing has the word “marketing” in it, there may be reasons to keep traditional marketing and search marketing separate.

For example, keeping them separate might make sense if search marketing works only in the B2C area and traditional marketing only deals with the B2B sector. However, putting search and traditional marketing together can be beneficial and should make for greater consistency in messaging, especially if content creation is within the portfolio of the search team.

Development & IT

Given the crossover between the work that search does and technical changes or requirements from the search team via Google, Facebook and other online platforms, it may make sense to place the development and internet technology (IT) team directly within the tech organization. Keep in mind this may create a level of separation from the editorial and content side of search, so they will need to find a way to work together.


If the organization has a design team, then it may make sense to involve the design team in projects from the beginning and involve the search marketing team at all stages of a project life cycle.

However, while design and the search marketing team should work together, that doesn’t mean that they should be bundled together in the organization.

Search marketing

Having a separate search marketing group within the organization means the search team can functionally work with other teams and have a voice in the organization dedicated to their wants and needs at an executive level.

The leader of this team needs to be someone who understands search marketing and can work with the leaders of the other functional areas within the organization. They also need to keep up with search engine changes and social networks.

Now that you’ve determined the appropriate organizational structure and hierarchical location for your in-house search team, the next step is to staff the team, which I’ll cover in my next article.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Simon Heseltine is the Vice President of Audience Growth at Trader Interactive, a leading provider of digital offerings to include CycleTrader, RVTrader, RV Web Services, Commercial Web Services, CommercialTruckTrader and He was one of the first columnists on Search Engine Land in 2007 to write about in-house teams and has won numerous industry awards for his expertise in managing them.

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