How SEO Agencies Set Up a Successful Content Marketing Department

|Brad Shorr

Every SEO agency needs a content marketing department: Content marketing is one of the few remaining link building techniques that is both effective and scalable. Our agency, which is focused on SEO, PPC and Web design, has been engaged in content marketing from its inception.Straight North SEO Agency

We manage content production and distribution for scores of SEO clients, and our campaigns often produce double- and triple-digit increases in site traffic, sales, leads, or e-commerce revenue generation.

Over time we have learned from our successes (and failures) about how a content marketing department should be put together. What follows is an overview of essential job functions SEO agencies must be able to cover.


To write authoritatively on behalf of clients, agency writers need to be quick studies. Also, because the volume of writing is high, they need to be just plain quick. Finally, they may need to be skilled in B2B and B2C copywriting, depending on the agency’s client base.

Freelance writers can supplement staff writers, but relying on them too heavily poses some risks. Freelancers cannot always be relied on to adhere to agency quality standards, meet deadlines or be consistently available. On the other hand, a freelance writer with deep experience in a particular niche can produce far better copy than a staff “generalist.”


View editors as your quality control team. QC is extremely important because clients demand accuracy and brand voice consistency even though content is being generated as part of an SEO campaign. Several types of editorial bases need coverage and these can be handled by one person or several:

Proofreading – Making sure copy is technically correct and adheres to whatever style standard (e.g., AP Style) applies
Copyediting – Making sure copy is coherent, concise and grammatically correct
Substantive Editing – Making sure copy is logical, meaningful and relevant to the client’s target audience
Fact-checking – Making sure assertions are accurate and adequately supported
SEO – Making sure copy incorporates the correct keywords in the correct manner

Editing duties can be shared with the client; in particular, clients should be involved in or responsible for substantive edits and fact checking. As you can see here, it’s not just a quick edit.

seo editing



Composing article headlines is a very important task, and probably best suited to the individual responsible for substantive editing. The article headline is what grabs the attention of potential publishers as well as potential readers. (In our agency’s process, we use working titles internally until we are ready to pitch the content. This procedure has worked well.)

Outreach Specialists

Outreach specialists are the sales arm of an agency’s content marketing operation (Tweet this) — the people who find potential publishers for offsite content, pitch them ideas, submit articles, work through problems and maintain ongoing relationships.

Outreach requires sales instincts, excellent communication skills and persistence. If outreach specialists work within a well-organized system – which they should – outreach is an excellent entry-level position. Features of a well-organized system include:

Process – A solid process for identifying and vetting publishers based on SEO criteria
Calendar – A calendar system to schedule new and follow-up outreach communications
Pitch Templates – A library of pitch templates that the specialist can personalize and modify as needed
Follow-up Templates – A library of follow-up templates that the specialist can personalize and modify as needed

Here’s a snap of the internal tool we use to track all our outreach:

SEO outreach tool

Director of Content

Every agency needs a person who is in charge of content. If high-level content decisions are dispersed, the entire content marketing operation will devolve into an amorphous blob of ineffective goo (Tweet this). The director of content is responsible for:

Audience – Working with clients to define target audiences, brand voice, and messaging themes
ROI – Responsible for content conversion strategies, content KPIs, and content attribution to business metrics
SEO – Coordinating with agency SEO personnel to ensure that content supports all strategic SEO campaign objectives
Team – Hiring, training and reviewing content department personnel
Operations – Evaluating and continuously improving content marketing operations

The director of content need not be a skilled writer, but must have very strong communication skills and a strategic mindset. In addition, this individual must have a solid grasp of both SEO and content marketing best practices.

Content Manager

The content manager makes sure the content train runs on schedule. This individual must have excellent project management skills and be a superb multitasker. Important responsibilities for the content manager include:

Ideation & Scheduling – Creating article topics and maintaining publishing schedules for each client
Assignments – Giving writers their assignments
Deadlines – Making sure content is written, edited and submitted on time
Coordination – Coordinating the creation of non-textual content (images, video, infographics, etc.) with internal design personnel
QA – Making sure content is published according to schedule and contains the appropriate links
Listening – Monitoring published content for comments and alerting the appropriate personnel when responses are needed

These Are Suggestions, Not a Blueprint

Every agency is different in terms of how work is organized. The most important takeaway from this article is not how responsibilities should be distributed, but what responsibilities should be distributed. As long as people with the appropriate skills are covering all the bases, all is well.

Two caveats about that. First, as your content operations grow, specialists will be needed to handle the workload while maintaining quality. Second, having one person in charge of content is really important – if content marketing is a secondary or tertiary function for an already overloaded executive, the program will flounder. In contrast, an executive who lives and breathes content will deliver spectacular results that excite clients year after year.

One final thought for SEO agency leadership: Although content marketing is mainly a link building technique for SEO campaigns, it also drives traffic to the clients’ sites and delivers other benefits such as stronger brand awareness and thought leadership. Because clients place a high value on these benefits regardless of whether they are formally part of the SEO deliverables, content marketing, when executed well, greatly strengthens the overall agency-client relationship.

Hitting "Publish" is only The Beginning!

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Brad Shorr

Brad Shorr

Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of StraightNorth a digital marketing agency with headquarters near Chicago. Straight North’s services... Read more

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