How To Become Better At Project Management For SEO

For more than 10 years now we are managing both small and large-scale SEO projects. Although each of these SEO projects is different, we can see several commonalities among them.

In this post, I will try to pinpoint most of the important issues regarding SEO project management. We cannot say for sure that the way we address these issues is the right or wrong way, but we want to share some patterns that we have noticed in most of the SEO projects that we managed so far.

Stakeholder Buy-In

Before starting any SEO project it is very important for you, as a project manager (PM), to meet and to get to know your stakeholders. These stakeholders include management, marketing, development, and PR.

Your first touch with the client might be the marketing executive or someone in middle management. However, this should not stop you from introducing yourself to other people who are also involved in the project. It is your responsibility to get all the stakeholders together onto the same table, and to clearly communicate your SEO project objectives. This gathering usually occurs at the start of the SEO project, but it doesn't necessarily has to be a physical meeting - an email thread, a project kickoff video hangout or even just a phone call, also serve as same.

After your project kickoff, your main task should be to understand your customers' company dynamics. It is important to know who decides what in a project. If needed, you should be able to present yourself to the upper management, other agencies involved or the IT-guy in the server room.

What important is here: you should clearly communicate the benefits of SEO with all the stakeholders involved in the project. Sometimes even a SEO 101 workshop can be helpful.

SEO Team
SEO Team

Set The Level Of Expectations

Customers’ expectations from an SEO project can be quite different from reality. It is very common, almost by default, to hear that they want to appear at the #1 position on Google - I'm sure that almost all of you experienced this before. Expecting immediate SEO effect, raising organic traffic in a very short time, or getting tons of links are all some kind of expectations that you've probably heard of, at some point.

As an SEO project manager, it is your job to frame the expectations in a more realistic picture. This can only be done properly when know and are aware of your customer's resources (development, marketing, PR, etc.), for example by doing a sector research, competitive analysis and taking the time to understand business objectives. After this research, you should make a plan and present this plan to the shareholders.

The general wisdom of any project management also applies here: “under promise, over deliver”.

Know Your Developer’s Language

In my opinion, this is the most crucial part in any successful SEO project. Every SEO project starts with a good technical audit. Technology has matured a lot compared to 10 years ago, as new technical factors came into the scene. Mobile and pagespeed wasn’t an issue before, but now they are at the top of the list. Cloud services, open API’s, complex JavaScript frameworks .. all these new technologies somewhat touch any SEO project out there.

A good SEO project leader must know and understand these technologies - plus their effects on the project of course. This does not necessarily mean a deep-down knowledge of the technologies, but just enough to know what they are and how they work, their jargon and specific terms, and how it might affect the SEO project.

Knowing the developer’s language and being able to speak fluently about these new concepts with the developer, is a must - providing alternatives to the problems, helping and assisting them to good sources, are also parts of an SEO project managers' job.

For a PM, this requires constant learning and updating your existing knowledge.

Be Flexible To Change Course

Some projects might face cul-de-sacs at some stage. Resources are limited, people lose their motivation, some unexpected factors come into play and so on. Any SEO project is vulnerable to these kinds of dead-ends.

As a PM, when you face one of these struggles, it’s your task to change the course of the project. In some SEO projects you might not be able to solve certain technical roadblocks, and some important technical hurdles that keep all of you stuck could occur. In situations like this, you have to change the direction of the SEO project into a new one, for example by creating a better content strategy, find a creative way to generate backlinks, increasing offline visibility, seek support from social media .. the list goes on.

The important thing is: an SEO PM should always be ready to change the course and be flexible. It's like being in a maze, if one way is closed you have to find another way out.

kubix seo process
kubix seo process

Share Knowledge By Educating Clients

SEO PMs should always tell their clients about the importance of SEO. This requires long term commitment from all the stakeholders. SEO isn’t just about improving the SERP results, but about an overall holistic digital marketing approach.

Most of the clients are usually interested in short term gains of the SERP’s - but the real important thing is to educate all departments about the value of constant long-term optimization for the search engines.

This education must require both technical knowledge, sharing with developers, creating new creative content strategies with marketing people, as well as discussing general strategies with upper management. This will result in understanding the importance of SEO for all members, hence getting a stronger will for everyone involved in the project.

Be Up-To-Date In The SEO World

This issue is in line with speaking the marketing and developer language. The SEO world is always in constant change. Google and other search engines are trying to be more accurate and more useful; and as an SEO Project Manager, you have to stay on the top of all these changes. This requires daily reading about news, company official blogs, and documentation, following industry opinion leaders, attending meetups and conferences, and always being proactive.

Staying up-to-date does not only count for SEO, but also generally in terms of the internet culture and digital marketing as such. You should always look for new technologies and try to guess their future impact on our society overall.

The facts in this post reflect my personal opinion on how a successful SEO project should be managed.

To keep it short and simple: a successful SEO project has to take into account all stakeholder buy-ins, and the level of expectations should be set at the start of the project. SEO project managers should speak the developer’s language and should be flexible to change the course of the project when it reaches a dead-end. Also, SEO project managers should keep themselves up-to-date about the digital marketing world in general, and share their knowledge with everyone involved in the project.

Wondering which other SEO members should be involved in a project, and what kind of skills you need to reach a successful SEO project execution? Then check out our blog post on how to find a good SEO expert.

Halide Ebcinoğlu
24 Apr 2019

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