SEO as a field, has expanded into multiple expertise areas over the years. There are 5 major types of SEO roles and expertise areas ranging from how a site is developed and written, while at the same time thinking of outside factors that influence its search rankings. In addition to SEO roles or expertise areas, there are also different types of search traffic. Let’s start with the different types of search traffic to scratch the surface of search behavior…

So what are the different types of search traffic?

  1. Branded Organic Search
  2. Non-branded Organic Search
  3. Paid Search

My subject matter expertise falls into the category of non-branded organic search. I’ll give you an example: “What are the best running shoes in 2017?” There is no brand present in this search. This is an opportunity for a brand to rank well in this category and influence the users purchasing decisions. You aren’t looking for a brand or specific product with this search but you find a brand as a result. This is a great opportunity to elevate or build up brand reputation. Branded SEO includes a brand in the search query: “what type of Western Digital hard drive should I buy?” Paid search is quite simply– search traffic that is paid for. In Google, they are at the top of a search result page and noted as an advertisement.

As for the different expertise areas in relation to job function, there are 5 major types of SEO roles.

I have two frequently asked questions about SEO that I’m going to address in this post.

“What are the different expertise areas of SEO and how can I structure my team to distribute SEO among the team?”

1. SEO Strategist and Analyst

The best SEO strategists typically have a core expertise area in one of the following: content strategy, UX, IA. All strategists also tend to have notable analytical skills. Having established analytical skills is quite possibly the most important skillset needed for a strategist. The strategist may also have a support analyst who performs deep analysis and competitor research. The strategist has the big picture in mind while also seeing the baby steps that are needed along the way. Due to the breadth of knowledge needed in this role, the strategist tends to be most senior member of an SEO Team.

2. Content SEO

Content SEO focuses on the visible content on a page or commonly referred to as “On-Page SEO”. This role is looking at understanding the user’s needs, and common questions and addresses them through carefully crafted content. This role participates in keyword research to understand search behaviors and how to craft effective headlines and proper keyword utilization. Content SEO is one of the two most vitally important SEO expertise areas. If you don’t have good content that meets the user’s intent and gives good user experience then what’s the point?

In my team at UC Davis, most of our resources are in this type of SEO. I have 3 positions in this area. A managing editor (who manages most of the seasonal content and the core of our blogging) a content strategist and a UX/Visual Designer. All of them work together toward the same high level strategies set forth by the strategist. These roles also help to shape and guide strategy along the way. I tend to find SEO strategists come most prominently from this category as it is the heart of SEO quality assurance. Content SEO responsibilities are commonly assigned to Content Strategists, UX/Visual Designers, Information Architects and Editors.

3. Technical SEO

Technical SEO is also vitally important and has some crossover with content SEO. Information Architecture (or IA for short) have roots in Technical SEO and Content SEO. IA’s have to be well versed in both of these areas to understand the tools at their disposal. The way you structure your site’s navigation, site map and taxonomies ultimately should be connected at the hip to your content strategy. In most cases, the technical SEO is mostly behind the scenes in the code. Meta tags, Canonical links, HTML 5 semantic elements, utilizing Microdata, rich snippets and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) are just a few things a technical SEO would need to understand. It’s good for content SEO’s to understand the basics of technical SEO and how it interacts with the visible content. However, the depth of knowledge are typically held by a programmer or a full-stack developer.

4. Amplification SEO

Amplification SEO embodies the combination of off-page SEO, partnerships, organic and paid promotion. Many simply refer to it as off-page SEO. However, I like to give it another name as it is best aligned with marketing and distribution best-practices. By building lasting and meaningful partnerships and educating partners on how to help promote your content, you will naturally have new links pointing to your content. The key is you need to have a distribution plan for every piece of content you produce. That is, if you want to get traffic and lasting results.

Using distribution channels inside of your control, such as existing websites and content while using organic and paid social channels can be critical for this type of SEO. Many people forget that paid social is a tool that can be used for SEO. Understanding how your content is developed and having highly strategic distribution plans can help you grab top search rankings.

This can be a portion of someone’s position distributing the role among a team of writers or it can be a dedicated role. For a dedicated role, one would act like a project and asset manager understanding all the partners involved and orchestrating between the various roles that execute the distribution plan.

5. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Funnel Development

Search engine marketing (SEM for short) is paid search. This role has a thorough understanding of AdWords, has a good understanding of search behaviors in addition to having a deep understanding of market seasonality and competitor research. They understand what they can do with a given budget, including when and where to spend. Those who work in SEM also tend to work closely with the content SEO and analysts. If the SEM specialist isn’t building landing pages themselves, they will typically work with the content team to create effective landing pages that have high conversion rates (getting someone to take an action you want them to).

I’ve met many individuals who’s sole role is to create sales funnels and integrate their funnels into a CRM to track a user’s progress towards a conversion. Other times, it’s a SEM specialist working together with a content SEO specialist to establish their sales funnels. Sales funnel development encompasses a deeper understanding of the steps users take as progress towards a conversion and understands user psychology to entice the user to take the next step. The most important take away is that SEM, Funnel development and SEO all must be coordinated.

In Summary

SEO is no longer a one-person job if you want to compete at the highest level. The good news… these roles can be established in relatively small teams even if that means combining a few roles together. In my team, I’ve been able to distribute SEO responsibilities among the team while still keeping their original positions mostly intact. When working with different team structures, it really comes down to what is necessary for each role to understand, what are their existing skill set’s and then mapping the right types of SEO to the right people or roles. Depending on the size of your organization and the size of your team, you can expand or collapse these roles as necessary.

5 Types of SEO expertise areas

  1. SEO Strategy and Analysis
  2. Content SEO (on page SEO and Content Strategy and UX)
  3. Technical SEO (IA, code structure etc)
  4. Amplification SEO (off-page SEO, organic/paid promotion and partnerships)
  5. Search Engine Marketing SEM and Funnel Development

Have a team and you are not sure how to distribute their roles with SEO in mind… post a comment here!

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