- Who owns or assists with content creation in your organization?
- What stakeholders are involved in revising code on your site?
- Whose approval do you need before making changes to content or markup?
- What stakeholders are involved in deciding on budget to help build the SEO channel?
Depending on the size of your organization and your role within it on the in-house side, there can be many people, several levels of your organization and departments involved in making even small changes to a given website.
On the agency side of the things, you’re trying to understand your clients business objectives, their resources, and generally how changes and improvements are made on the site – which makes being flexible with the way you deliver your products/services and strategies you recommend critical to effectively meeting client requirements – SEO strategies are not one size fits all.
The group effort needed to accomplish successful SEO for your site is unique in the online marketing space. Here are a couple actionable tips for planning SEO projects for easier execution and greater returns.
1. Know you stakeholders and build relationships with them
This is my NUMBER ONE tip and it comes from understanding the human factor in organizations. For those you who aren’t huge nerds like me on this concept, I *highly recommend checking out Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, Leadership for learning more about the different groupings of organizational theories (this is one of my favorite books ever!!!!). Basically, the human resources perspective on management focuses on the human relationships in organizations. I fell in love with this theory because I’ve found that it really captured a unique perspective on the workplaces generally and established a key fact: relationships are really important in getting stuff done in corporate settings where a lot of stakeholders are involved.
The 25 cent version of the human resource perspective is that one ought to try to build great relationships horizontally and vertically within an organization and do what you can to foster a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing. This is particularly true for SEO because so many people are involved in getting SEO projects done and having good relationships and positive sentiment with those people will help get them on board for your projects. Adam Audette, wrote a great article titled Why Is Project Management Undervalued in SEO, discussing the role of project management in SEO and the interdepartmental nature of SEO project.
2. Think about goals in terms of business objectives and have a broad view of the SEO Channel
Having a clear idea of how your business objectives translate into KPI’s is so critical. So often, businesses define their SEO success by ranking for a couple short-tail phrases and building SEO strategies around that. Ranking for a couple short tail phrases ought not be the only target for your SEO channel and does not provide a truly descriptive basis for making strategic decisions – in my opinion.
Consider how the SEO channel currently fits into your internet marketing strategy and how can you better synchronize it with other channels. Two really popular ways this is done:
- Using Adwords retargeting to reach visitors that landed on your site organically.
- Creating opportunities to drive informational traffic to secondary conversions and driving those visitors to other channels to maybe convert them later:
- Following you in social media
- Joining your mailing list
3. Involve key stakeholders in your SEO strategy creation process
Input from the people who will be approving or executing your plan later will help you execute larger SEO projects that really move the dial with greater ease. I am a huge fan of getting everyone together in a room and getting as much feedback on your plan as possible with key stakeholders in your organization, however having a brainstorming meeting is not always possible in organizations, because your access may be limited or there may be time deficits to coordinate a meeting. Despite possible impediments you may encounter, give some opportunity to key stakeholders to advise on your plan. Sharing your plan with others before it is fully minted will expose blockers and issues that you may have missed beforehand. This will allow you to be proactive in planning for them, rather than being reactive in dealing with them when the projects are already in progress.
4. Create an action plan for at least a couple months
So many businesses undertake SEO projects sporadically, without long-term direction and without well long term goals for the channel. Going back to my analogy from the beginning of this article, SEO is very different from PPC – you can’t just turn the traffic faucet on and off. Good planning and investment over time in your SEO channel is the best way to create a SEO strategy that pays dividends.
Think about all the SEO projects you want to execute on:
- What they will require in terms of resources and approvals, and how much time they will take to accomplish?
- How would you rate them in terms of being easy or hard?
- Will they make an impact on their own in the short term?
Will they be effective only when combined with other projects?
- Do the specific SEO projects require something to happen before they can be done? For example, you can do a SEO based content strategy without doing keyword research first.
- How can measurement be built in as part of your plan? One good way to structure SEO projects is in two 3 month chunks and then measuring how you’re preforming against your KPI’s at the 3 month milestone.
The key takeaway here is not to undertake SEO projects sporadically but to have a structured plan, that takes into consideration your resources, the relevant importance of each project, and the amount of resources needed to get them done.
5. Leverage Project Management Software Solutions for better execution
The successful execution of SEO projects depends on keeping yourself as well as others who are accountable for SEO project completion organized and on track with planned milestones. Fully leverage systems that keep you organized, whether you have a team or it’s just you. There are MANY tools you can use to get you organized and collaborating easily with others. Tom Critchlow, in his article, Project Management for SEO (2012 Edition), discusses several useful tools for small groups. One tool he discusses in his article, which I’ve had successfully implemented in the past on small and a couple larger projects is Trello, which is a simple free project management solution, which is great for small teams. Critchlow also discussed the use of Google Docs and PowerPoint to aid project management, which are also good solutions for small teams. Another useful tool for personal project management is to do list. For larger teams, consider a more robust paid project management solution. The advantage of paid tools is better reporting on tasks and more features, which becomes important if you have a large team. When shopping around for a project management solution, some things to consider are:
- Ease of use, because you’ll need to be the evangelist and get everyone up to speed on it. If it is hard to use, it will have low adoption.
- If you will need IT to configure it (this can be a huge blocker if your IT project cycles are slow)
- How well it integrates with other systems (billing, time tracking)
- Compare features against business requirements.
Whether you lead an internal team, at an agency, or in a small business setting, every SEO project owner should make use of software to keep tasks and projects organized.
A couple additional resources that are worth a look:
There are a bunch of great ideas about project planning and project execution strategies for SEO, that I thought may be of use as reference. Here are just a couple, in addition to the ones mentioned above that I’ve found useful:
- SEO Management 101 – What Makes a Good SEO Manager, By Richard Baxter – Nice article discussing several features of a Good SEO manager.
- The SEO Project Management Jedi Challenge: May the seoPM Force Be With You, Aleyda Solis, SEO manager – Great article based on presentation of same name covering some broader concepts in how to successfully plan and accomplish SEO projects.
- Tips for Effective SEO Project Management by Justin Briggs, SEO & Social Manager - This is a cool guide for getting some ideas on how to use parts of the agile methods for your SEO project management. This is a little bit more on the execution rather then the planning side but includes some nice thought-provoking ideas.
- Project Management for SEO, Lucy Langdon - This is a good article about taking projects from the planning stage and structuring their execution. It discusses some of the strategic concepts I covered above and covers task delegation and reviews.
- 7 Tips To Deal With SEO Resource Constraints, By Tony Adam - This is a detailed article covering internal and external partnerships, and business development as well as roadmaps and SEO resources.
- How To Frame Your SEO Conversations So Work Gets Done, by Duane Forrester: Great article discussing getting stuff done in an enterprise setting, with lots of different types of stakeholders.
- SEO Roadmap & Strategy: Getting Aligned With Product Development, By Tony Adams – Good article Discussing several key considerations in SEO strategic planning.
- Planning Long Term Link Building Strategies, By Paddy Moogan – Very nice article about link development project planning, that may be a useful jumpoff for those seeking to try out link development.