SEO Project Management: How to Organize Teams and Tasks to Get More Traffic (Templates)
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains the most effective digital marketing channel, but only if your company is managing it properly.
The real question is: How do you manage your SEO projects effectively and boost your digital marketing results? I’ve been managing teams, and I have been part of SEO teams for more than a decade.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
First, Download Your SEO Project Management Kit
Hold up! Before you continue reading about how to improve your SEO, don’t forget to download the perfect templates to help you across your road to success.
This bundle includes:
- A Content Calendar: The best way to keep track of your projects and when their deadlines are.
- A Marketing Project Time Tracking Template: Make sure you’re keeping an eye on the time you spend on your projects.
- A Marketing Project Management Calendar Template: Have a bird’s-eye view of all the projects going on with your marketing team.
- A Project Brief Template: Struggling to come with a creative brief for your next project? Look no further!
- A Project Team Huddle Template: Make the most out of your next team meeting by following along with this template.
What Does SEO Management Entail?
In fact, there’s a better graph (credit to Anthony Palomarez):
In a nutshell, SEO consists of three main tasks:
- Fixing technical issues:
- Creating content that matches relevant search queries (includes keyword research).
- Acquiring links, which is a never-ending task.
As the site and brand grows, technical SEO becomes a higher priority; it gets intensively more difficult to effectively structure the site the way Google can access all pages without getting lost. Link building remains equally important for organic search visibility, regardless of the age or size of the project.
Obviously, it is a simplified (let’s say “fundamental”) way of looking at an SEO process. With Google algorithm notoriously relying upon at least 200 ranking factors, there are dozens of micro-tasks involved, depending on the project.
These tasks may include fixing a damaged online reputation (possibly hurting rankings), improving on-page engagement (video and image content), and even redesigning key landing pages (user experience testing).
How Many People Are Usually Involved?
With those high-level and micro-tasks in mind, it becomes obvious why SEO can be a nightmare to manage. At the very least, there are people who create and publish content, people who monitor the site performance, and people who build links.
Let’s not forget customer support and account managers (third-party sites), graphic designers, video creators, outreach managers, etc.
To top it all, those teams and people are also not operating in isolation. In most cases, link building teams rely on linkable content being created by someone else. Add the fact that any site performance issues can hinder any other SEO efforts; simply because key pages cease to exist after a redesign or server outrage.
Generally, when you are managing an SEO project, it is often impossible to tell which task should come first. There are many tasks that need to happen simultaneously for the whole project to move forward. This is what makes SEO management so difficult.
With so many stakeholders involved, how do you manage SEO effectively?
Set up an Effective Internal Communication Routine
This seems obvious at this point, but to this day, I wasn’t able to find one definitive answer to a seemingly easy question: How do you get all people within one company to talk to one another?
Some tools seem to work for some companies, while failing to help others. You need to take your time and go through a few different platforms before you make your choice.
Ever since our whole agency moved to working from home this spring, we have excelled greatly in internal communication, in my humble opinion, but we still failed to find a single tool that would do it all. We still have to use a combination of the following:
- An email solution that offers solid security features. We use Outlook for that, but I suppose Gmail for businesses may work as well.
- A virtual meeting platform. We have tried quite a few — including Google Meet and Zoom — but nothing has worked as well as Uberconference because it requires no installation and allows you to set up rooms for every team, which can be accessed at any point. You don’t have to remember access codes or look for a newly generated URL inside your email inbox. Your room is always there whenever you need it. It is magically productive when you can jump into your assigned room at any time of the day to meet a fellow coworker, share your screen and get any problem solved in minutes.
- A simple IM (instant messaging) solution for quick back-and-forth. It could be Skype or, in our case, Adium.
- A private blog where all company news and projects are announced. This is maintained by many members of the team. Whenever there’s any update from any department, it gets announced on the blog. A private blog is easy to set up using WordPress.
How does that work in practice?
- We have a 10-minute, cross-team meeting every morning to discuss daily tasks and on-going or new projects.
- We have a quick system of any unexpected problems being solved via IM or a Uberconference call.
- There are dedicated rooms for cross-team brainstorming sessions whenever we need to come up with creative and/or link building content assets. People from different teams are always welcome to join those; any input from across the company is always fresh and different from what we’d come up inside a single team.
- We have a blog with weekly (and sometimes daily) updates on what’s going on with the company and our projects.
It takes time to create an effective environment, but it can be done. Don’t over-play with the tools though. Whenever we try to use any fancier or popular tools, like Slack, for communication, they steal more time than we can afford to lose.
While trying more tools is mostly useful, don’t rush to introduce them to the whole company to use. It’s magic, and it takes time to find one.
Use Project Management Software
SEO management and project management have a lot in common. Fundamentally, you want to make sure tasks are created, completed, and deadlines are met.
As an SEO analyst, completing all kinds of various tasks every week, I know from experience that I am more productive when I have a deadline. This is important for most people, even the most efficient of us.
You/Your managers also need to make sure all employees are assigned tasks they are most suitable for, and no one is delaying the whole process.
A well-defined project management process can help with both of those tasks.
CoSchedule offers a great suit of project management features that include task workflows and task templates. Both of these features make it easy to manage repetitive and recurring tasks that most SEO teams have to deal with from project to project.
When it comes to SEO or any project management process whatsoever, it is also a good idea to use time tracking software to ensure all your employees or team members are productive during the day. Deputy offers a nice time tracking feature set, allowing you to identify and reward the hardest-working employees.
Team members can simply use an app to notify you when they are working or when they decide to take a break. Very easy and efficient.
For newly remote teams, like ours, Deputy also has a nice guide on how their toolset helps create effective workflows.
Create an Effective Collaboration Workflow
In an environment where dozens of tasks exist, many of which depend on being completed almost simultaneously, effective cross-team collaboration is a necessity.
This becomes even more essential when remote workers are involved or parts of the project get outsources to freelancers. Whenever these assignments happen in isolation, the whole project may be ruined or get stuck.
1. Collaborative Idea Sharing
I have already mentioned how we use Uberconference for collaborative brainstorming, but there are many more ways to do that. We have tried many tools for recording, sharing, and organizing various ideas.
Trello seemed to be the best for that purpose because it not only offers collaboration features, so everyone can contribute, but it also keeps things organized into boards and columns.
2. Knowledge Sharing
A good SEO team structure is the one where everyone knows exactly what they are doing. This is one of the reasons why many SEO teams that lack knowledge exchange.
The reasoning for that is simple: “Why would a link builder want to know what a 301-redirect is?”
Yet, limiting every team member’s knowledge to exactly what they are doing is counter-productive. I have found people to be much more motivated and productive when they know the bigger picture (i.e. “What happens with the whole project and how does my part contribute to that?”)
With that in mind:
- Maintain one master project document noting goals, deadlines, etc. Everyone in the team should access that document easily. Your current task management solution should give you an option for collaborative document sharing. If not, Google Docs will work, and they can even be dated.
- Set up Kanban Project Dashboard for everyone in the team to see who is working on what.
3. Collaborative Reporting
Like with cross-team knowledge sharing, an ability to collectively monitor results from a common SEO campaign boosts motivation. This is why I always recommend making SEO reporting a collaborative effort.
Finteza is a great tool for that because it makes reporting easy enough for everyone in the team to understand it. You need two tasks performed once for it to work:
- Install Finteza on your site.
- Create “funnels” for your team to monitor where people land on your site from and how they move through it.
From there, your whole SEO team can monitor what really matters to each of them. For example, they can monitor specific traffic sources, specific demographic, or specific search query.
There are also ways to set up an analytics dashboard right inside your private blog to connect several data points. This way you can consolidate both Google Analytics and Finteza data in a most easy-to-understand way.
Encourage Creativity and Independent Working With Tools
While a collaborative environment is the only way to create an effective SEO management strategy, the big part of your SEO process is going to be about creativity and independent working.
People seem to come up with more creative ideas when they are able to implement them or just sketch them right away.
These days, teams can have access to hundreds of all kinds of creative tools. These tools can help them find new ways to create linkable assets, put together better content assets, or even keep more tasks, like graphic design, in-house to avoid outsourcing.
Sadly, too often in-house content creators who seek to discover new tools are shut down or ignored. “This is not how we do things,” is a common argument to how these initiatives are shut down.
Don’t make this mistake. Reward your coworkers’ creativity and ingenuity. This is what will ultimately help you or your clients' sites shine.
To give you some ideas, here are a few cool tools that spark creativity while encouraging independent working.
Renderforest is a perfect creativity tool that can be used for easy video and animation creation. Your team will find it fun for multiple purposes, from creating linkable assets (i.e. viral animations) to creating engagement triggers to optimize your landing page performance.
Venngage offers a collaborative platform for graphic design projects. It allows you to put together infographics, slide shows, and white papers — all of which can be effective link and lead magnets. The platform offers your SEO team more options when it comes to content packaging, which results in more creative PR and link acquisition tactics.
3. Text Optimizer
Text Optimizer is a topic research tool that uses semantic analysis to help your team come up with more in-depth and better ranking content. The tool also encourages content creators and link builders to research more angles and cover more aspects than they would have thought up otherwise.
Buzzsumo is another content research platform that helps teams to understand any topic better. From their question research to trends, Buzzsumo offers a lot of tools for independent brainstorming.
5. Muck Rack Trends
Muck Rack Trends is Google Trends focusing on journalistic coverage of specific topics. It is an effective content research and link acquisition tool because it helps you choose your words the way it sparks interest and catches the trend. It can be cross-used by several SEO teams, including content creation, on-page optimization and link building.
We are using many more tools, of course, but I picked the 5 above because they help with multiple tasks.
In a nutshell, when your SEO team members know they are encouraged to use tools outside of your current toolset, they will become more motivated and independent assets to your team. I just love bringing new tools into the process for this exact reason.
Project Management vs SEO Management
Both project and SEO management always consist of many mutually dependent pieces being put together; you need to effectively connect many teams together while getting a lot of micro tasks done.
Where SEO management is different is its vagueness, at least when it comes to result tracking.
There's never a direct correlation between actions and results.
In SEO, the goals are usually not well defined though. The main reason is you can never identify a clear outcome of a certain task. For example, you can never tell whether a certain task triggered a desired boost in rankings.
What it means is that you cannot clearly attribute a certain result to a certain action because your team usually does a lot of things simultaneously while the results come weeks or months later.
This makes reporting and result tracking extremely difficult. This also makes rewarding certain teams difficult, if not impossible. This is why it usually makes sense to reward everyone involved when the whole project starts yielding results. On top of that, to keep everyone involved motivated, you can choose to reward:
- Creativity and ingenuity: When certain team members find the way to do a task differently, experiment with new tools or formats, etc. While the actual result from this action may not be obvious, it is always worth rewarding your team for going an extra mile and finding new methods and tools to do things in an innovative way.
- Efficiency and productivity: If part of your team is always completing their part in time, find ways to reward them.
At the end of the day, SEO management is about maintaining a fine balance between keeping everything very well organized and keeping everyone inspired and motivated to come up with creative ideas. I hope the tools and ideas above help with both!
October 21, 2020