The 6 Flavors of SEO Your Company Needs


We often hear how you can’t put baby Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the corner. How, if you want to reach your ranking and conversion goals, SEO must permeate through all departments so that everyone is working together toward the same end. It’s not enough to just let marketing or content or, even worse, IT handle your search engine optimization in a vacuum. You want everyone onboard the SEO train, so that they’re working together and the organization benefits from the synergy that occurs.

While at PubCon last week, I found myself frequently being asked if I consider myself a “real SEO”. No, I don’t. Outspoken Media has Rhea, Rae, Dawn, and a growing number of OSM employees for that. But just because SEO isn’t my day job, doesn’t mean SEO isn’t part of my job. And that’s something I think many organizations could use a refresher on.

If you’re marketing your business online, you need to aware of SEO. Regardless of what your business card says. Here are a few flavors of SEO that must exist in any company. Feel free to add any I may have missed. After all, I’m not a “real SEO”. ;)

The Content SEO

If you’re handling content, you need to know SEO. As a content person, you’re going to be responsible for creating written material to use for:

  • Your Web site
  • Blog posts and link bait pieces
  • Press release
  • Job postings
  • Company profiles like the ones you’d find in the SEOmoz marketplace, Crunchbase or LinkedIn
  • Video or podcast scripts
  • Everything else the company does!

And all of that content needs to be optimized to help attract the right visitors and put them on a specific conversion path. If you’re creating content with no thought to SEO or how it’s going to fit in with the rest of your site to achieve your goals, then you’re wasting your time. You may as well not even have the Web site. Just go back to handing out flyers on the street. Maybe get a megaphone.

The Developer SEO

Your developer is responsible for the most fundamental parts of your Web site, and therefore, of your SEO efforts, as well. He or she will be setting the stage for:

  • The Site URL structure
  • Server setup
  • How quickly the page loads
  • How the site links internally and externally
  • How content is displayed (iframes or Flash, Oh no!)
  • How the search engines crawl and index your site

The Developer SEO must make sure that the Web site is running as efficient and SEO-friendly as possible. They’re in charge of creating the flow of your Web site. If they create it without keeping users and SEO in mind, well, enjoy the process of undoing everything they spent months doing. There’s nothing as fun as cleaning up a mess that’s not really yours and that could have been avoided. If you’re building a site from scratch, make sure it’s done with SEO in mind from the very beginning.

The Designer SEO

Depending on the size of your organization, the Developer SEO and the Designer SEO may, in fact, be the same person. But just because he or she is sharing one desk, doesn’t mean they don’t need two sets of skills. Your Designer SEO will be responsible for:

  • Positioning content and navigation within the code
  • Styling real text over an image or background color without relying on uncrawlable text in an image
  • Balancing content and a clean design
  • Optimizing how quickly the design/images load
  • Properly naming images and optimize alts, etc.

Gone are the days where your designer’s job was simply to “make things look good”, now he or she needs to make them work. They need to ensure that everything they’re doing is aiding the flow of the Web site and that they’re doing work that will be accessible to not only users, but also to the engines who are coming to sniff out the content from the design.

The Link Builder SEO

If you’ve ever worked with a link builder, you know that there’s a special kind of magic that separates bad link builders from those that are truly skilled. Some of that depends on charm and the ability to know how to woo someone, but it also comes from their knowledge of SEO. But not all links are created equal. The Link Builder SEO must understand:

  • The types of links that exist on the Web
  • How to create a strong link profile
  • How to link out and solicit links
  • How to create relationships with media outlets and other linkerati
  • How to properly make a pitch

The same way content should never be created without understanding how it relates to the site’s SEO efforts, your link building must be as strategic. Because it’s not just the quantity of links that matters, it’s the quality and where you’re getting them from. The Link Builder SEO is responsible for creating the right kinds of links, the ones that will have the biggest benefit to the site’s SEO efforts.

The Social Media/ Community Manager SEO

Your social media/community person also needs to be involved in the SEO process. It’s not all about Twitter and blogs and creating Facebook updates. They’re going to be involved in:

  • Creating relationships to drive traffic and boost social signals
  • Writing posts and updates intended to engage and spur social activity
  • Using analytics to find new content ideas
  • Encouraging product and business reviews
  • Responding to positive and negative reviews
  • Getting links

Whether they realize it or not, everything they touch will have an indirect (and sometimes direct) effect on the site’s search engine optimization efforts. And if you’re sending them into the waters unsure of how their job plays into the greater SEO picture, you’re doing everyone a disservice.

Traditional Marketing SEO

It may seem like an oxymoron (or just a plain moron), but your team also needs a Traditional Marketing SEO, someone who find ways to integrate what the company is doing offline, online and vice versa.

  • Sync offline and online efforts
  • Use keywords in print marketing to encourage desired searches
  • Understand online buying cycles
  • Be fluent in the company’s social media activities.

Just because someone’s job is to promote the company via print, radio, billboard, etc, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be fluent in SEO and understand how their job impacts the larger whole. Because it does. There’s nothing more frustrating to a customer than trying to redeem an online offer in store and have the manager not know what they’re talking about. Way to wear your company’s disconnect on your sleeve.

Those are some of the major flavors of SEO I see. Which ones have I missed? What flavors of SEO exist in your organization? Which ones are you missing?

Your Comments

  • Andy Nattan - Unmemorable Title Copywriting & SEO Blog

    I’d just like to point out that of all the flavours of SEO, the Content SEO is the most fun.

  • Hugo Guzman

    Good stuff, Lisa.

    I truly hope that your influence will lead to organizations truly buying into this concept (as opposed to letting it go in one ear and out the other).

    P.S. I’d maybe add “C-level SEO” in that executives for a company need to facilitate SEO by properly allocating budget in terms of employees, third-parties, tools, etc. as well as empowering SEOs with real decision-making power (so that they don’t always get trumped by someone else in the organization with a different agenda and/or a fundamental misunderstand of what SEO is and why its so valuable in the long run).

    • Lisa Barone

      That’s a great point about the C-level SEOs being really important in their ability to empower SEO within the entire organization by providing the resources and means necessary to get it done right. Thanks for bringing that!

  • Adam Willis

    Very well put. I am currently doing a little of all six of these functions and it is pretty damn overwhelming. It would be nice to take on three pretty seriously and have a partner do the other three, but that doesn’t look to be in the cards at this time.

    Also… it was great to finally get to see a couple of you talk when I was at PubCon last week. Yours were, by far, some of the most interesting and useful sessions I attended.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks, Adam! I bet if we took a poll, lots of our readers are wearing, on average, 3-4 of these hats all by themselves. Maybe by teaching organizations how SEO needs to be set up inhouse, it’ll encourage them to add some new team members. We can try.

      And glad to hear you got to see the girls speaking at PubCon. I heard they all rocked it pretty hard. We had a good time meeting new folks. :)

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    Lisa, this article just became a must-read for all the players involved at every one of my agency clients. As much as I drive these concepts on a regular basis, having it reflected by a 3rd party should go a long way to strengthen the importance of the message.

    I would like to add a couple people:

    The Data Architect SEO

    For larger / enterprise scale sites – the person responsible for data relationships and data extraction efficiency. If the content isn’t organized properly in the database, it can’t be presented for optimal user experience and SEO value. And if there are delays in generating that data (think tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of products), that causes a negative impact on site speed as well.

    The Systems Administrator SEO

    The person responsible for server hosting and DNS implementation needs to be able to ensure the most reliable, fastest server solution possible, otherwise usability and SEO both suffer.

    • Lisa Barone

      Ooo, thanks for adding those two. Definitely hadn’t thought of the Data Architect SEO before. That’s a good one. :)

    • Dawn Wentzell

      In so many businesses, the Developer is the Data Architect and the Systems Administrator. And if they don’t know SEO…hooo-boy. Fun times.

      Not that I know from experience or anything.

      • Alan Bleiweiss

        Yeah and they typically fell in love with whatever data modeling they learned the first time out, and subsequently fell in love with whatever server solution they were forced to have to learn the first time out.

        Which brings up the other issue with all of the above. If they’re not open-minded, we’re all in trouble.

        • JadedTLC

          @AlanBleiweiss – you make a good point. I have to fight developers in almost every SEO project I get into. I’ve found it easier to get a writer to change his/her spots than a developer. They are so defensive over their work.

          @LisaBarone An article on how to persuade developers to embrace SEO would be appreciated :) Does anyone have any ideas? PS I’ve tried buying coffee, compliments, encouragement, etc.

          • Alan Bleiweiss

            I gave tips on how to get buy-in during my panel presentation at Blueglass Florida this month. For developers, it’s about playing to their ego. First though you need to have buy-in from c-level or site owner. With that in the bag, you communicate that you need the developers help. Yeah – make it like you need them. Because, uh, you do. :-)

            Lay it out though

            – The company’s missing big revenue opportunities so this is high priority work.

            – Competitors are already doing this (then show them a few examples).

            – Let’s automate this – explain that wherever possible, we can automate this. (Using templates, pulling content from a CMS – which might require new data tables for page Titles, Meta Descriptions, h1 fields, link text…)
            Here’s the plan, I want your input.

            – Then show them the tasking and ask for their input on how this can be done the most efficient way possible.

            • JadedTLC

              Maybe next year i can go to BlueGlass :) Thanks because I’ve found resistance with many developers even when the boss is on board.

  • Mikko Rummukainen

    Thanks for the great points!

    These different approaches would be sensible to remember when building SEO campaigns. Quite often it seems that ‘one approach will have to do’, which does not always work very well, due to lack of the feel for brand personality or customisation for key search terms.

    I should actually make a note to benchmark my own SEO thinking to see if I’m missing any flavours. : )

  • Michael Dorausch

    Chocolate, pizza, ice cream, cupcake, beer, and bacon flavored SEO would have been my picks.

    Your mention of syncing offline and online efforts is critically important if people are physically entering your business. It’s an area that is often overlooked and businesses do look foolish when there’s a disconnect between the two. I should know, I’ve been guilty in the category and have learned from it.

    • Lisa Barone

      You know, after I published this I realized I should have created actual flavors. Copywriting fail. :) Of course, now I’m starving and it’s all your fault!

      I think making sure your online and offline marketing depts know what the other doing is REALLY important. There’s nothing more awkward than being a customer and trying to educate one party what the other is doing and what was promised to them. I remember trying to redeem a FourSquare coupon at a restaurant who had no clue what I was talking about. I felt like a dope…not really the best feeling to give customers.

  • Tim Eschenauer

    Great post Lisa. One in which I believe all marketers, especially those who haven’t embraced the value of SEO, should take the time to read… then read it again. There’s no doubt that the most effective SEO is when everyone is on board. So many times SEO has been the thing that gets left out of the marketing mix (or is just an after thought), yet it should be driving everything else. You’ve laid it out perfectly that SEO is really part of all aspects of website development and marketing as whole, when it typically falls only under the content tier.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks, Tim. I think it’d be nice to slip this post under the door of some traditional marketers and higher ups. Oftentimes SEO gets banished to one segment of the company like, “that’s IT’s thing” when, really, it’s not. Good SEO is the responsibility of the company.

  • Ted Goas

    Nice way to break it down, though I’d suggest combining Developer SEO and Designer SEO under one umbrella. If we’re talking about a pure designer and no development, there’s really not a lot (if any) SEO going on. It’s all how the page is put together.

    Great post though, I’m just nitpicking over semantics!

    • Maurice

      mm probaly wouldn’t work i can drive PS ok ish and could do an Art Director role but a real designer who can realy draw is something else.

      In BT one of our designers was in a meeting when we where discussing a possible logo for BT Worldwides intranet he sat back for 10 min and on a scrap of paper scribbled something that just worked we used it unaltered apart from a few touch ups when it was scanned in

    • Lisa Barone

      I thought about combining them because, I imagine, for most companies it is the same person doing both. Ultimately, I thought the specifications of each were different enough that I could break them apart. But you’re right in that one without the other probably isn’t going to work out so well.

  • Ethan Semmel

    Interesting take on the “traditional marketing” and “social media” seo – 2 parts I must say I usually never think about in terms of seo.

    I’m curious to see what you think of the opinion that seo is an endangered species by people such as Ken Evoy –

    • Lisa Barone

      The Traditional Marketers who ignore SEO really irk me, perhaps that’s why I was so adamant about getting it in here. :) It’s the company that spends a gazillion dollars on a commercial, but then doesn’t rank for the terms/call to action they’re using in the ad. Or the company that launches the social media promotion…that no one in store knows about. Stuff like that drives me crazy because if A had just spoken to B , the problem wouldn’t exist and the marketing campaign would be SO much stronger.

  • mentorlog

    If you consider 2010 stats, social media activities are really important for any company.

  • Bob Gladstein

    Jean Cocteau once said that all of the arts were forms of poetry: dance poetry, film poetry, theater poetry, painted poetry, even prose poetry.

    I knew that film studies degree would be useful in my SEO career one of these days.

  • john andrews

    Okay so now at the close of 2010 everything is SEO. I get it now.

  • raj

    “@Lisa Barone: I bet if we took a poll, lots of our readers are wearing, on average, 3-4 of these hats all by themselves”

    I am the one that wearing hat of your 6SEO flavors and didn’t get chance to work for Data Architect SEO on large scale yet but developed dynamic pages and its data well and seo friendly for small websites.

    yes your article and @Alan Bleiweiss comment are really worth full for reader.

  • Mark Carter

    What a great post. I shall be posting this link around the company today and getting all the departments to read it on pain of death.

  • Chris

    Wow that’s thorough. As a writer, I really only see one piece of the whole SEO pie. This is helpful.

  • Rico, Leeds

    I’d add that, counter to this, SEOs should understand Accessibility, Usability and Coding Standards issues involved in a designer and developer’s job.

    So many SEOs seem to make changes with the thought “sod the quality, we just want to rank well”, whereas I believe they need to (and it is perfectly possible to) work within the confines of the W3C’s standards if they are to sell themselves as a web professional.

  • Cijo Abraham Mani

    Great insights !!

    I do love to add a couple as well

    SEO Tester

    A person who does rigorous tests every part of the website to improve the overall online performance of the website.

    SEO Researcher

    A person who does a lot of research and who stays updated with the latest SEO tactics. The person should be knowing about latest SEO tools. He should the person to be contact before implement new strategies.

  • Chris

    nice list and great insights!

  • Bharati Ahuja

    I think all the flavours put together gives us the SEO flavour loved by the search engine bots .

    Its all these SEO aspects woking in sync with a cohesive force which gives the desired results.

    Great Read!

  • M


    I love the way convey your message regarding integrated marketing communications and SEO. It’s simple enough for a guy like me with a zero IQ to comprehend. Since you have no problem doing so with someone like me. You should not have a problem dealing with all the departments involved to accomplishing your goals in an integrated marketing campaign.

    Thank you for the great, not so boring and comprehensible posts!

  • Jane

    That is indeed a fantastic post.A must read for anyone in the industry.We should all be looking out for things that could be done internally to improve SEO and brainstorm together for link building ideas.

  • Bharat Patel

    I don’t know about others but i really love to do my seo work myself. There are two reasons for it, i really do not trust other person’s as i really had some pretty bad experience with them. Also when its been done by yourself you know what things you want and make them perfect. SEO is all about breaking your head off on daily basis.

    And Lisa i wish i could meet you folks someday so that even my brain will get sharpen. :)

  • Fred - designer/ developer / writer

    All these things are spot on, and they all take time, which equals money wherein lies the problem. My clients get inundated with phone calls and emails from dodgy companies promising first place listings, sometimes for just a few dollars a month. When I propose SEO, it’s expensive by comparison, because to do it right takes time. So far I’ve had a couple of clients get blacklisted on Google, because they fell for the unethical SEO companies, who basically pasted links all over the web on scraper sites – and Google (thank goodness) is getting so much smarter at spammer’s techniques.