Tips for SEO Project Managers That You Won’t Find Anywhere Else
Throughout my SEO career, I’ve worn many hats- from a personal assistant, to a social media specialist, to an SEO specialist, to an SEO Project Manager, and now a business owner to a boutique digital strategy agency. Of all these transitions, moving into a management position had the steepest learning curve, by far. Before becoming a project manager, my job was to know my craft, stay current, execute effectively and show results. When I took on a management role, I found myself entering into a space where the technical knowledge of my industry met the element of humanity.
The key was to be prepared for both.
Attention new project managers, this article is for you.
Technical Knowledge of Your Industry
Stay current and streamline knowledge sharing.
So now you have a new employee doing all of the strategy execution for you. Awesome. I know you’re cheering at the thought of never having to do a 5,000-piece Keyword Analysis again, but this doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook. The SEO landscape changes drastically on a daily, if not hourly basis — and for that reason, no one has the right answer on how to do it. We are all out there developing robust strategies, testing algorithms, and then reporting back to the community.
As a project manager, it is your job to sift through the nonsense, online and offline, and provide your team with the most up-to-date knowledge out there. This research will give your team the space to work faster and more diligently. It will also give you the edge to review your team’s work with accuracy and intention.
Do a day in their shoes… or even a week.
As a new project manager, take time to work alongside teammates and understand their workflow. SEO, as we know, has a lot of moving parts that all need to work in tandem to reap results. Take the time to sit down with each of your employees for a day, perhaps even a week, to learn the ins and outs of their specific contributions. In doing so, you’ll learn each of their existing workflow styles and how the puzzle fits together. It is a great way to get to know your team members, and will ultimately make you a more versatile, knowledgeable manager. Not to mention, showing this type of initiative will also instill trust
Let’s Get Human!
Learn your team’s work history.
Everyone has a story, and that story defines the type of employee he or she is going to be. Let’s use your new SEO specialist, “Joanna,” as an example.
Joanna came from a corporate in-house background at a large agency, where her ideas were shot down more often than not. As a result, Joanna’s learned behavior is to withhold from sharing ideas. Joanna was then hired as an SEO specialist on your team, but doesn’t take the same initiative as everyone else. This doesn’t make Joanna lazy, it makes her insecure in her abilities and a bit out of practice. By identifying the issue, you can provide a solution.
Sit down with each of your team members to learn about their work history. Ask them what struggles they faced and do your own investigative research on the companies. Read employee reviews on Glassdoor to understand the work-culture that your employees came from. Not only will this make you a better manager, it will make them more efficient and contributory team members.
Teach Initiative, Incrementally.
Now that you know Joanna’s work history, you better understand her shortcomings and strengths. You told Joanna to explore new ideas, and reassured her that her opinions are valued. No matter how many times you tried to empower Joanna to take initiative, she just isn’t doing it. As a manager, you need to think SMALLER.
For someone with Joanna’s background, taking initiative is a daunting task. It’s a muscle that hasn’t been exercised in years and she doesn’t know where to start. Try giving her very specific, task-oriented “micro-goals.”
For example, instead of asking Joanna to perform an SEO Audit, break down the audit into sections and assign it incrementally. Require her to provide a competitive analysis and list three positives and negatives about each competitor’s performance. Have her give a summary of each competitor, their stance on rank and where they can improve. Assigning micro-tasks will force Joanna to be thorough and give her the courage she needs to step outside the box.
Another way to teach initiative is to incrementally give her responsibility. Distributing responsibility can be tough, but we all know that delegating work is the single best trait of any successful manager. Set up a system where your team will work together to deliver a finished report to you on a monthly basis for each client, as if you were the client. In this scenario, you don’t risk a relationship with the client, but you are allowing Joanna the space to take risks and ownership of her work. This will make her a more efficient team member and prepare her to grow within the company down the line. The trick is to minimize risk while allowing some room for failure.
From there, consider bringing Joanna in to client relations, incrementally, so as to avoid employee complacency. By putting her in the spotlight, this type of pressure will push her quality of work and even empower her as an employee.
Obviously, this isn’t always an option, as having multiple points-of-contacts can be frustrating and confusing for the client. But toy with various ways you can empower your employees.
Employ Curiosity Tactics
We work in an industry where complacency is not an option. Not only is the landscape changing every day, but there are hundreds of competitors getting better and better every day. Your team needs to stand out and stay ahead of the curve. They need to live and breathe growth, push boundaries and take risks.
One surefire way to evoke curiosity is to assign weekly industry readings for your team and require each of them to provide three specific questions or solutions based on the reading material. Once a week, review questions as a team and open up the communication lines. Creating a safe space within a team increases work productivity and initiative.
A second tactic is to get your team involved in the industry community by requiring specific networking events, lectures or webinars, such as Pubcon or the SEJ Summit. It is important to approach these events with specific objectives, otherwise they can become overwhelming and unproductive. Help your team pick out relevant and eye-catching events to get the most out of this time.
Put everything in writing
As a project manager, the most dangerous place to be in is a “he said, she said” scenario where you cannot decipher why something did or did not get accomplished. By putting tasks on paper, you can monitor the progress and success of your team as a whole.
With the immense communication lines we have instilled in the workspace, tasks are bound to get lost. Chances are, your company is using Slack for project communication, Asana for task list upkeep, e-mail for clients, Google Drive for work-sharing, and texting for, who the heck knows.
It is your job to organize these communication streams in a way that seamlessly holds everyone accountable to their word.