Advocating for Expanding Your SEO Team

Creating the business case and fighting for resources

Sales of the SEO MBA course are still going strong! It’s especially exciting to see agencies and in-house teams purchase access for their whole team. If you’re interested in getting access for 5+ people then get in touch for discounts and custom pricing: tom@seomba.com


In conversation with one of the SEOs who went through my first beta, I asked: Are you actually making a pitch for the resources you want? They said:

“No, if anything this is my biggest issue. Something about the idea of pitching for resources makes me think I'm not good enough to be trying to do things my own. I know it's ridiculous but I have this idea that "I need to prove SEO is worth investing in before asking for more investment" which is not scalable at all.”

This is a common issue! Many SEOs are struggling to show impact, while also struggling for resources. But it’s also common that, while frustrated, the SEO team hasn’t actually made a clear pitch to the executive team to expand the SEO resources.

And resources are the most precious resource a company has. Extra headcount isn’t going to fall in your lap so it’s really important to advocate and pitch for the resources you want.

So, here’s some thoughts on how to advocate for an SEO program - whether it’s increased budget or increased headcount:

1. Agree on the Value of SEO

No, I’m not talking about the value of “all organic revenue” but more specifically - what is the value of deliberate SEO investment? This might not be easy to directly quantify but you might back into it a few ways.

  • Are there recent SEO initiatives that drove success?

  • Can you map investment in SEO to periods of growth in organic revenue?

  • Did SEO input help the site migration achieve 20% increase in revenue?

However you might be able to find this out, it’s important. Executives always believe (somewhat correctly!) that if they stop investing in SEO their organic traffic will be just fine. At least for a while. Your job is to help them understand just how valuable deliberate SEO investment is.

Even if what you find is anecdotal (“Our page generation initiative from Q2 drove $500k in revenue”) you can pair it with the overall stats (“Non brand organic revenue is $15m / year”). Together they tell a story that SEO is important and that SEO can have a large impact.

Starting your resource ask with this framing helps set you up for success.

2. New Resources Should Come With a Story of New Things

Listen, I hear you. You’re a lone SEO person inside a large organization and you’re just juggling a lot of things. It’s too much. You need more people.

Unfortunately this doesn’t really win executives over. Only in exceedingly rare situations can you advocate for more resources to basically keep doing what you’re already doing.

Instead - what you need is a narrative for how more resources will let you do new things you can’t currently do right now. Even if you secretly want an extra SEO person to just help out, you need to paint a picture of how more people will unlock new initiatives.

We’ve talked before about why SEO requires capacity building and that’s a good place to start - thinking about key initiatives and then converting them into an ongoing resource ask.

Examples here might include dedicated SEO resource to support the editorial team by writing content briefs, or dedicated SEO resource for engineering QA. Or it could be high leverage projects like “a new reporting dashboard” or “SEO support for new international launch”.

3. Don’t Forget a Full Accounting

“What you need” is almost certainly not just SEO bodies. A robust SEO program needs buy-in and resources across other functions, not to mention budget for tools and software.

More SEO headcount is going to mean more work for the engineering team and more work for the content team. It’s rare that an SEO team is entirely self-sufficient. So don’t forget the full accounting of what you need and don’t be afraid to pitch for it. Remember - you’ll likely end up with less than you pitch for.

So if you start off pitching for something like:

  • 2 FT SEOs

  • 3 engineers

  • 2 writers

And end up with

  • 1 FT SEO

  • Some engineering commitments 

  • Budget to hire a freelance writer

Note that this can be a great way to make friends across an organization “I can help you advocate for more resources in YOUR team!”

4. Align your Pitch with Planning Season

I’m not saying you can’t pitch for headcount outside of planning season... but I am saying you’ll have much less success. Depending on the size of the organization, planning season might be extremely formal and extremely predictable (e.g. enterprise companies) or it might be more frequent and more casual (e.g. startups). But either way there’s typically a time and a place for high level resource allocation and you’d be wise to align your pitch with that.

Especially in bigger companies your pitch for more SEO headcount is likely just going to get subsumed into someone else’s headcount pitch (e.g. a line item on the CTO’s planning forecast for the CEO). So make sure you’re planning to make the pitch at the right time.

And because of this - if you’ve previously pitched for more resources and didn’t get them, hold onto that pitch and don’t forget to bring it back up at planning season! Sometimes it’s the right pitch, just at the wrong time.

5. Benchmark Against Competitors

This is kind of a cheap shot but I’ve seen it work. Where you’re working at an organization that closely watches key competitors it can be useful to quantify the gap in resources. I remember working with Bloomingdales many moons ago - there was debate internally about the correct size of the SEO program and one of the key data points that the executive team paid attention to was the size of the SEO team at Wayfair1

Nowadays Wayfair is much bigger than Bloomingdales but at the time they were more comparable, and I remember Wayfair had ~20 people working SEO and content vs a tiny team at Bloomingdales.

This isn’t always the most compelling argument (it’s always hard to get apples to apples here for a true comparison) but at the very least knowing the ballpark SEO team size of key competitors allows you to push back every time executives unreasonably ask for the same results!

In Summary: You Don’t Get What You Don’t Ask For

The more senior you get in your role the more that executives are expecting you to have a point of view on the size of the team, headcount etc. Don’t assume that what you have today is all there is. Just be sure to create real compelling and credible pitch for expanding the team - and build the narrative around what that expanded team will be able to deliver.

Good luck!

Tom

1

LinkedIn is great at generating these insights. I use searches like this all the time:

site:linkedin.com/in/ wayfair intitle:SEO