SEO Project Management: A Basic Understanding For Smooth Deliverables
When I tell people what my job is, the most common question I am met with is ‘what does a project manager actually do?’. It would make my life much easier if there was a straightforward answer, but the truth is, there isn’t. At its core, project management has an overarching goal, to ensure the smoothest running of a project from conception to completion. However, the day-to-day handling of the project can differ greatly between each industry and even each individual project. So here’s a basic understanding of what SEO project management is, how it works, and some tips I’ve learned along the way to make my job easier, and more effective!
What Exactly Is SEO Project Management?
Regardless of what stage you may be in your own SEO journey, project or goal, implementing even the most basic project management steps doesn’t just ensure the project goes the way you want it to, but also provides an easier way to analyse any mistakes or mishaps that can be noted for all future projects.
The three main stages for any project are outlining, executing and analysing. Here’s an overview of each, and a quick tip!
This can be applied across all activities within the business when it comes to SEO. From optimising blog pages to performing a full site SEO audit, every element within your SEO exploration can, and should, be properly managed.
Outlining a Project
This is when all stakeholders meet and agree on the objectives of the project, why these have been chosen and how these will be achieved. It’s no use ambiguously saying ‘we want more traffic/revenue’, without running through these specifics.
It’s important to ensure everyone is on the same page at this stage, reiterate conversations in writing and outline clear objectives and deliverables. At this point, the project manager can assess any risks and create contingency plans.
Executing a Project
This is the most variable aspect of a project. It could be a few days, weeks, months or even years. No matter how long the project is, make sure to schedule regular check-ins, both internal and external to keep things on track.
During this time, deliverables can be completed, changes implemented and success tracked. In tandem, project managers can work with the SEO team to see if any changes to the roadmap need to be made, in terms of timeline or the deliverables themselves, and communicate and agree to this with stakeholders.
Throughout this period, the project manager should be able to easily produce reports on the internal success of the project and be able to implement, adapt or remove resources as needed.
Analysing a Project
Also known as closing a project. No matter what the success or failure, a project manager should be able to analyse how the project went, as a whole and from smaller elements. From this, mistakes can be avoided in the future and successes can be repeated.
Relaying this to the team and wider departments can help to highlight wins and allow everyone to learn from these experiences.
Why is Project Management in SEO Important?
A structured approach to projects makes managing daily tasks substantially easier. With effective SEO project management, you can ensure:
The Project Is Running Efficiently
SEO can be a bit of a rabbit hole. No site will ever be 100% perfect all of the time. From Google updates to competitors pinching your ranking, there is always work to be done to get that all-important high-quality traffic to your website.
To prevent a never-ending quest for the optimum blog or perfect page speed, project management helps to set out a clear goal and stick to it. This goal should always have a ‘why’ and a ‘how’. Why are we wanting to complete this project? How are we going to complete this project? With these two factors clearly laid out, it means the task at hand can be tackled in a more disciplined manner.
The Team Remain Focussed
Let’s face it, even when a clear roadmap has been defined, there will always be cases when we have to sway from it. We can’t always predict what urgent actions need to be taken during a project, however, we can use our better judgement, teamed with our experience to determine the value of going off-track and to steer the project back to its original goal.
Everyone Is Communicating Effectively
One of the most frustrating aspects of a failing project is when communication is lacking, mainly because this is such a simple fix that can make a huge difference to everyone involved.
It isn’t just your SEO team that needs to know what’s going on, freelancers, consultants, clients, developers and designers, the list can be seemingly endless.
All stakeholders need to be kept properly informed throughout the process and having an ‘all knowing’ project manager with the latest updates, roadmaps and budgets removes any confusion, unnecessary emails and needless meetings. With everyone relaying and getting information from the project manager’s direction, it’s unlikely for anything to be missed.
Important Information is Organised and Accessible!
It can be infuriating trying to find a particular email, document, phone number or anything else needed to complete a project. While those extra few minutes might not seem like much, it all adds up and takes away valuable time from the team. A project manager provides organisation in numerous ways and allows the SEO to achieve their goals faster and easier, you never know the true value of a well organised Google Drive until you experience a horrendous one!
A project manager should be able to not only handle requests for data from the team swiftly, but their system should be easy to use for the rest of the team as well. Taking ownership of filing systems and project management tools allows the project to be contained in one place, with all resources accessible and accounted for.
If Something Goes Wrong, The Team Can Learn From The Experience
Everyone will experience a failed project at some point in their professional life. Admittedly, this can be a bit of a heartbreak, however, there is always something to be taken from these experiences. Each individual on a project may confidently declare that their input couldn’t possibly be the cause of failure, while others will convince themselves that they are the sole reason for the downfall.
In retrospect, a failure of a project commonly falls on many things and ‘blame’ shouldn’t ever be placed upon one person or department. Instead, we can all learn from what went wrong, how it can be avoided and how procedures can be improved for next time. Efficient project management should mean there is a paper trail of every step and flaws or miscalculations in the plan can be analysed and improved on. Did we need more time on a certain assignment? Were team members not fully trained on a task? Were the right SEO tools not provided?
Good project managers constantly question even the most successful projects to eliminate issues, even before they become a problem.
The Project Stays On-Time and In-Budget!
Every aspect of SEO implementation has moving parts. For example, Digital PR and backlinking go through weeks, or even months, of various stages. From campaign ideation, asset design, developer input and outreach (to name a few), all these stages need to be properly managed to ensure deadlines are met. Many digital PR campaigns are time-sensitive, to launch in line with new products/services or seasonal events.
Whether you are using an in-house team or utilising freelancers and agencies, there needs to be someone overlooking each stage and be seen as a source of all knowledge when updates are required or changes are needed.
Alongside this, budget is a crucial aspect of project management. While we all wish for endless cash flow to allow maximum creativity, it simply isn’t viable. The project manager will be there to track spending and help the team stick within those limits.
What Makes an Ideal Project Manager in SEO?
So what characteristics does an SEO Project Manager need?
It’s a common misconception that SEO project managers need to have extensive knowledge of SEO. In reality, it is the rest of the SEO team, strategists, analysts, executives etc who actually perform the SEO specific tasks. However, a basic understanding of SEO can help a project manager create a more realistic and reasonable plan, this also allows them to communicate with stakeholders with more confidence and reduce the risk of anything being lost in translation.
Organisation & Time Management Skills
Natural flair for organisation and time management is crucial. It’s a soft skill that can be hard to learn, but without it, a project can quickly go south. But being organised isn’t enough. Inadequate project managers often flounder due to their lack of communication. It’s not conducive to have everything organised beautifully in your own head if this information isn’t relayed to all those involved in a clear manner.
Being flexible is essential, projects can change in an instant and project managers should be able to think on their feet and provide solutions that suit all stakeholders in an acceptable time period, without being too precious about their previous plans.
An often-overlooked characteristic of a project manager is the ability to be approachable. Your project is only as strong as your team, while this may sound like a cliche, it is incredibly accurate. If your team is needing anything, whether that be more time, budget or support in any other way, they are unlikely to approach a distant project manager. A team that is under-supported, for whatever reason, not only has detrimental effects on the project but can be harmful to the overall work environment. Mental health should always be considered above profits
So There You Have It!
Project management can help to make or break your SEO plans, by allowing your SEO experts to focus on their daily tasks, projects can turn from uncoordinated nightmares to well-oiled strategies. You’ll be amazed at how much goes on behind the scenes in the role of a project manager, but you may question how you ever ran without one or the implementation of project management best practices!