There's no question that your SEO team needs to be comprised of industry experts. Whether you have a full-time in-house team, you're working with an agency, or you're combining your own experience with the skills of freelancers, your overall level of expertise will ultimately determine your success. Someone new to the industry is liable to make more mistakes, have lower quality standards, and run into problems when it comes time to troubleshoot.

Here's the dilemma: not all "expertise" can be classified the same way. SEO is a complex strategy with many moving parts, and you might find one expert who specializes in one area but is noticeably weak in another. How should you handle this dilemma if you want to maximize your potential return? 

Wide vs. Deep Expertise

The core issue here is one that plagues multiple industries: the competing advantages of "wide" versus "deep" expertise. For example, in the IT industry, "wide" experts know a little about a lot of different devices, technologies, and topics, while "deep" experts know a lot about a narrow range of fields. Some companies have similarly adopted a "deep" approach, with specialized expertise, while others aim for a jack-of-all-trades "wide" approach. Think Yankee Candle versus Walmart. 

SEO can work the same way. For example, you might find someone who knows a lot about link building, but isn't very skilled when it comes to onsite SEO, content marketing, or peripheral search marketing strategies. This would be considered a "deep" expert. On the other hand, you might find someone with years of experience in SEO who's familiar with all the basics, but doesn't have any single strategy they can "knock out of the park." This would be considered a "wide" expert. So which one do you need to succeed in SEO? 

The Case for "Wide" Specialists

SEO incorporates a lot of different elements from a lot of different areas. For example, your content should be optimized for your target audience and keywords, your web design needs to create an easy and seamless user experience, and even your social media and email marketing campaigns should be used to help promote your site in ways that improve domain authority. Accordingly, some authorities have suggested that everyone on your team should know at least a little bit about SEO

Deep specialists, on the other hand, may be nearly ignorant about other areas of your strategy. Your content marketer, for instance, may have trouble incorporating natural embedded links into your outbound guest posts. Your link building specialist may be unable to diagnose a performance issue with your website. Furthermore, deep specialists tend to be more expensive due to their in-depth knowledge (and the fact that you'll need more than one deep expert to form a cohesive team). 

Accordingly, "wide" strategists have both a risk and cost advantage over "deep" strategists--you'll spend less with a wide expert, and you'll have fewer vulnerabilities in general. 

The Case for "Deep" Specialists

SEO is a highly competitive strategy in each of its segmented areas. If your content doesn't stand out, you won't generate any momentum. If you only mirror what your competitors do in a link building strategy, you'll never surpass them. The key to succeeding in SEO is beating the average, and if your workers only know an "average" amount in each of these areas, they'll only be sufficient enough to keep you afloat. 

Think of it with this admittedly oversimplified analogy: imagine you have 10 different keyword phrases to rank for. Would it be more beneficial for your company to rank number 1 for one of these keywords and not rank at all for the rest, or rank number 20 for all 10 of these keywords? The latter will get you a wider spread of results, but only the former is liable to generate a substantial increase in traffic. 

Many companies have adopted a "wide" strategy because it's safe, it's conservative, and it's relatively easy to adopt--even if you don't have many years under your belt. Therefore, "deep" strategists have a competitive advantage over "wide" specialists. 

The Final Verdict 

Clearly, both wide and deep experts have advantages. What are we to make of this? 

There's one clear advantage in SEO that isn't always present in other industries: you can "mix and match" your team, so to speak. For example, if your company is big enough to afford an entire team of in-house workers, you can specifically select team members to fill certain niches. If you can't find a candidate to bring on full-time, or if you don't have the budget to do so, you can enlist the help of a specialist agency to help you fill in the gaps. If that's still too rich for your blood, you can bring in freelancers who are masters of their own game. 

Knowing this, and knowing that both "wide" and "deep" expertise offer distinct, important advantages, why not strive for the best of both worlds? Each individual component you bring into your team (whether that's a worker, an agency, or a freelancer) should be an absolute expert in one area of SEO. Your goal should be to unite all these elements together in one framework, possibly led by a "wide" expert who knows a little bit of everything, so that you can be the best in several different areas without neglecting your broader goals. 

It might sound like a cop-out to say you need both wide and deep expertise to succeed, but it's the truth. You'll have to find a balance between the two, and that's up to your own goals and priorities, but it is possible to attract both for your SEO strategy. 

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.


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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > Should Your SEO Team Be Wide or Deep Specialists?