Ling Lee
Ling Lee, at Digital Marketing and Personal Branding

Search engine marketing

Is SEO categorised as part of IT or Marketing?

Do you think SEO should be categorised as part of IT or Marketing? SEO experts, do you call yourself an IT or marketing professional?

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10 Answers

HUNTER LEONARD

HUNTER LEONARD , FOUNDER AND CEO at BLUE FROG MARKETING PTY LTD

My viewpoint is simple - Marketing drives the strategy - your marketing department should be deciding what to optimise and the IT department or outsourced consultant works out how and reports back on progress against the strategy or target set by marketing.

Marketing is correctly defined as a strategic process that involves researching the market, deciding on a strategy, implementing it and measuring. It is most definitely not a technical function in coding, backend IT stuff, which is best left to the experts.

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Brad Lyons

Brad Lyons , Consultant at SMS Fusion

Wow, very good question. I believe SEO is a marketing issue and not an IT issue. Main reason is, IT is responsible for the website however the content should be managed by the marketing department.

IT should not be tasked with having to post articles and content, they should be responsible for maintaining the code behind the website to ensure the load speed is as fast as possible and improving site functions.

I am a strong believer in treating departments as separate businesses. If you need to build a website your marketing department and IT department should have a meeting. Both department create the project plan and go over what is required.

In this case, the marketing department is the client and the IT department is the consultant/service provider.

Sure some of their requirements will be to ensure the site is setup to be SEO friendly however the content isn't an IT issue, it is a marketing issue. IT should not be spending time writing articles on your products and focusing time on trying to come up with the best poster design. That is a marketing issue.

The file size and dimensions of the poster is all the IT department need to worry about. IT should consult with the Marketing department on the most efficient poster size, marketing will then design the poster and ensure it meets IT recommendations.

Both departments are specialists in their area, so let them do what they do best and don't try and add new tasks they should have to worry about. Treating your departments like individual business units will help things run smoother. Departments that work together on projects should always have the Client/Consultant relationship. Once the project is over the website maintenance is completed by IT and the SEO, SEM, content and any other marketing material is managed by the marketing department.

So, short answer. SEO is a Marketing department specialty. Website development is an IT specialty. Your website is a project both departments work on with a Client/Consultant relationship. IT will know the best way to develop the site for speed and efficiency. Marketing will know what products will attract the most traffic to your site and how those products should be promoted.

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Jessica McGrath

Jessica McGrath , Marketing Consultant at Stoke Marketing

I think it is a balanced combination of both IT and Marketing. You need to know and understand your market to know how to best meet their needs - marketing. The nuances of technical stuff to enable finding of the solutions for those needs on search engines is (IT). They need to work together always.

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Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan , Director & IT Specialist at Adept IT

I have a different view on what an IT strategy should contain. IT strategy is a high level, global/infrastructure based document. Our strategy reports usually look something like this:

current status of:

  • Physical or virtual servers - hardware, operating system software and productivity software
  • physical desktop environment - hardware, operating system software and productivity software
  • Backup, BC and DR - what's in place, when it was tested, whether it works, how much the backed up data has grown by
  • Security and Antivirus - stopped and detected threats, areas where protection is identified to be deficient
  • Best practice - whether the infrastructure adheres
  • Capacity - whether the infrastructure was able to cope
  • Business - whether it grew, how much it grew by, if it was in line with our previous expectations
  • Regular incident (something is broken) request (you need something done) or training (your staff need to know how to do something) occurances

Then we add whether any of those things might be aging and need to be replaced or upgraded in the next 12 months, suggestions for capacity improvement or best practice improvements, or staff training opportunities. We then determine with business what they expect growth to be, where they identify failings in the IT infrastructure and ways we can provide better value to business.

The strategy report doesn't say, for isntance "we propose a new server with X Y &Z componentry" - that's not strategic. It says "we propose replacing Server1 with a new, 'performance' server in Q3 to cope with growth" or "based on current data growth, we expect your backups to exceed available storage space by X, would recommend increasing backup space prior to Y, to prevent impact to your backups"

To say that how a website is structured, including things like 301s and 404s, shouldn't form part of a high level IT strategy. It's part of a Website design strategy, sure. But IT is more than just your website. You should definitely have a strategy for your internet presence, but it's not your IT strategy. It could form part of your IT strategy, but only in terms of capacity and availability of the web presence, not the actual design.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

I disagree with you. If your presence online is an application (PaaS, SaaS or related it is very important). Your answer focused only on IT Strategy, not on whe... read more
I disagree with you. If your presence online is an application (PaaS, SaaS or related it is very important). Your answer focused only on IT Strategy, not on whether or not or how SEO aligns to it. Your approach seems to focus on internal workings of IT, not the external area that customers see. Looking at the issue this way discredits internal users as customers who could still benefit better from SEO being more tightly integrated into the company intranet, benefits system and on premises project management software. Also are you structing employee email addresses to be quickly indexed and searched on or do I need to scroll the entire employee roster? That is still SEO and still needs to be part of IT Strategy. I don't personally subscribe to strategy having such a narrow view. A good strategy should have levels and depth. It should be actionable. A strategy is not a high level set of bullet points that approaches a topic from a single perspective.
Greg Tomkins

Greg Tomkins , Director | Web Architect at Top Left Designs

Any IT Strategy should deliver to business outcomes not just the System Risk Management plan or System Capacity Plan. It matters nought whether it is a web syst... read more
Any IT Strategy should deliver to business outcomes not just the System Risk Management plan or System Capacity Plan. It matters nought whether it is a web system or a good old legacy software application - if the system fails to deliver to business outcomes then why the heck does it exist at all. In my 37+ years in this industry I have seen too many IT systems that had no strategy or business plan underpinning them, the original business proposal became outdated or defunct due to changes in the business or the system and no one could find justification for what was now in operational status. This is not old systems - we are seeing such findings come out of may government departments in the last 12 months and if private enterprise was subject to such public scrutiny then we would be hearing more of the same form that quarter.
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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

I answered this question for @SavvySME (on twitter the other day). I'll repost my thought below in more detail.

I believe that SEO has to be part of your IT Strategy. This may sound simplistic but you must structure your website or application in a manner that lets you take full advantage of SEO best practices. This means that you should be using friendly URL (e.g. yoursite.com/3-Ways-To-Beat-Competition vs yoursite.com/849201992992.html). You must also structure your content in a manner that groups logical information together (from the user's point of view).

This means categories and chunking of data/content must be applied consistently. Also, planning for errors, ensure you have common error handling so users can recover and navigate to needed content (301 error from permanently moved content should either redirect the user to the new location or give them navigation and/or a search to recover). Similarly a 404 (or page not found) should be used to direct the user back to available content or a way to contact your business. This is all IT Strategy, and needs to have a solid plan in place. It must also be revisited to ensure that new content is still following the intended plan.

Let me circle back, SEO is not only IT Strategy, but it is also Content Marketing. This means that the content you create should be aligned to the SEO IT Strategy so they can work together to create a united SEO plan. When creating content, make sure that you are using natural language and not just keyword stuffing to try to boost your ranking. The goal is to get eyes on the content (and keep them coming back, not constantly looking for new eyes). This means using language your users understand, not relying on jargon. Using catchy headlines for content does you no good if once the content is reached the users realize they were tricked into clicking on something completely unrelated. SEO should be natural and organic in your communication, so focus on good content. If you are planning all your content around SEO, take a step back and reevaluate if that will really produce the outcome you are seeking.

Which brings me to my last point, how will you know if your SEO strategy from an IT and/or Marketing perspective is working? You must measure it. Your IT strategy needs to include analytics and metrics that are actionable so that marketing can tweak or double down on their efforts based on how the users are engaging with the content. Remember that IT and Marketing need to work together to make a winning SEO strategy. Ensure both grounds understand the needs of one another and revisit on a predetermined basis.

Greg Tomkins

Greg Tomkins , Director | Web Architect at Top Left Designs

Jef has hit the nail on the head - There is SEO and there is also SEM - the latter being Search Engine Marketing which is most definitely a marketing responsibi... read more
Jef has hit the nail on the head - There is SEO and there is also SEM - the latter being Search Engine Marketing which is most definitely a marketing responsibility. I won't repeat what Jef has said as he has put it so well but suffice to say that there is overlap in IT/Web skills in both SEO and SEM that it does get a bit confusing. Depending on the size of the organisation it is also only possible to have a single resource who gets lumbered with both responsibilities. Unfortunately the 2 roles require enough different skills to make it very difficult to make it possible to fulfil the requirements of both roles within the 1 person.
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Zeeshan Ali

Zeeshan Ali , Performance Media Manager at iMoney

I do call my self as Marketer first ...

But its true that over the period an SEO learns much of tach stuff for building an understanding about how search engines crawl your website and how to deal with relevant problems to it ... Also to suggest optimization suggestion which cannot be done without good IT knowledge like think about analyzing Page Speed as that is the most important factor for ranking.

Now days SEO can be categorized for each n every department of business most importantly IT, Communication and Marketing because SEO job is now to deliver standard practices to respective departments so that they can care about relevant SEO stuff for their segment.

So SEO is integral part of an organization now, rather just grabbing higher search rankings ...

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Iain Dooley

It's an interesting question and I think this is more or less why the term Growth Hacker has come to prominence.

Digital marketing of all kinds has so much overlap with Web Development skills that it is sometimes cumbersome to employ a "marketing person" who then has to make a tonne of requests to the IT team in order to get anything done.

This problem can be solved in some part by choosing the right tools and platforms. Things like content management, tag management and sophisticated analytics tools, coupled with basic Web scripting and/or solid excel skills will usually allow someone not specifically employed as an IT professional to solve most of their own problems.

So I'd say that SEO strategy is definitely a marketing cost, some tactics will require IT resources, but that anyone doing online marketing these days really needs a "growth hacker" skillset unless they're in a big enough organisation that they can be responsible purely for the strategic side of things.

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Neil Steggall

Neil Steggall , Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

SEO is a critical component of any marketing strategy yet I fear some organisations still look to their IT professionals for SEO development.

A great question Ling!

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan , Director & IT Specialist at Adept IT

I agree with Neil - SEO (and performance media, and social media) are all part of marketing budget, rather than IT capex or Opex. I also absolutely agree that ... read more
I agree with Neil - SEO (and performance media, and social media) are all part of marketing budget, rather than IT capex or Opex. I also absolutely agree that organisations look to IT Professionals for SEO development (as well as anything to do with the internet - it's generally the first thing people say to me "oh, you mean like webpages"
Nick Cavarretta

Nick Cavarretta , Owner at Sydney SEO Consultant - Nick Cavarretta

I'm in this boat. SEO and SEM is critical to digital marketing. I conduct a lot of SEO audits myself and a lot of the time the tasks built are based around clea... read more
I'm in this boat. SEO and SEM is critical to digital marketing. I conduct a lot of SEO audits myself and a lot of the time the tasks built are based around cleaning up what IT/web dev companies do.
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Animal Emergency Service

Animal Emergency Service , The Animal Emergency Service is a specialised veterinary pra at Animal Emergency Service

Yes, I think SEO should be a part of marketing not a part of IT. But it's not necessary an SEO Expert can be a marketing professional.

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John Eustace

John Eustace , Principal / Communications and Media Strategist at Bells and Whistles Marketing Pty Ltd

Marketing (nothing to do with IT)

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