The ultimate guide to SEO project management for digital agencies

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Search engine optimization (SEO) can be one of the biggest contributing factors to online success. There's a reason why SEO is one of the most sought-after services by businesses and has an expected $83.7 billion market reach by 2025.

If you appear higher in search results of a competitive keyword, you get more site visits. And increased site visits expand brand awareness, boost credibility, and lead to more conversions.

A well-planned SEO campaign is your best chance of getting to No. 1 in the organic results. And for SEO agencies, this is the importance of proving relevancy and worth to your clients.

The truth is SEO campaigns have a lot of moving parts, so it's sometimes difficult to keep on top of it all. Adopting a project management approach not only ensures that your SEO campaign stays on track, but maximizes your results for your clients too.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's start with the basics. 

What is SEO project management?

SEO project management involves the planning and coordination of any project related to SEO. The most common SEO campaigns encompass various tasks such as technical audits, content audits, keyword research, content distribution, on-page optimizations, link building, SEO for video content, and more. 

One of the easiest ways to mess up an SEO campaign is failing to adhere to task hierarchies. With SEO project management, the main goal is to create a more structured environment and break things down into tasks, subtasks, and project milestones.

This helps your team know the project's end goal and exactly how you’ll reach it. Let’s take a technical audit as an example.

A task might be to run a crawl using a tool like Deepcrawl or Screaming Frog. From there, you can break other actions down into sub-tasks, such as checking for redirect chains, bad redirects, broken links, orphaned pages, non-indexable pages, and pages without valid canonical tags.

Blog post image When the technical audit checks are complete, you could create a task list for the dev teams called "technical SEO actions." 

From here, you can split each issue up into specific tasks, where you list the issues you found and explain what the developer needs to do to fix them. The developer can check each item off as they fix the issue, adhering to clearly-defined due dates, so milestones aren’t missed.

SEO project management allows you to create structured campaigns, which allows your SEO team to work more efficiently. There is also full visibility across all aspects of the project, including between team members and clients.

Why does project management matter in SEO?

An SEO project is, by nature, something that’s going to take quite some time to bring to fruition.

Adopting project management methodologies into your SEO campaigns will help set them up for success by ensuring that every task is planned in advance and completed on time.

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Project management for SEO teams

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More often than not, SEO can take months to show tangible results. It's often a lengthy process, which is why it’s essential to manage your SEO project correctly, giving your client clear visibility into the plan you have created and the tasks you have completed.

It’s a lot harder to show progress to your team or client without an SEO project plan, especially at the beginning of a marketing campaign, when it's usually harder to move the needle.

What is the role of an SEO project manager?

An SEO project manager sets the goals of the project, devises a strategy, and oversees the tasks within it. They decide what’s needed for the project and make sure each task is being done correctly and on time.

So, what skills does an SEO project manager need? These project managers are best when they are: 

  • Organized: SEO projects are easier to manage when they’re broken down into individual tasks, have enough resources, and have clear deadlines or milestones.

  • Collaborative: Unfortunately, SEO isn't at the top of everyone's list. But with the average SEO job needing help from content, creative, development, and other marketing departments, it's easy to see why collaborative SEOs are essential. It is the SEO project manager's job to clearly communicate their plans and outline the benefits for their clients as well.

  • Flexible: Although sticking to original deadlines is the goal, SEO project managers should be flexible enough to adjust project timelines whenever their team or client stakeholders have an issue.

How to build a successful SEO project management plan for your agency

With the basics of SEO project management behind us, it's time to delve into the details. The best projects start with a bullet-proof plan. 

Breaking down your SEO project into concise steps and actionable tasks is essential. And luckily, we're here to show you everything needed to build a great project management plan.

1. Set your goals with your clients

Before you kick off any SEO project, it’s important that you clearly outline your goals. Begin by consulting with your client and finding out what they want to accomplish.

Ultimately, the project should aim to satisfy the specific needs of your client’s business.

Construct an SEO strategy that is designed to help you hit your targets. Aim for realistic, measurable objectives that can be broken down into tasks and subtasks. Some examples of potential SEO goals include:

  • X amount of organic site visitors per month by X date

  • Increase blog traffic by X amount month on month

  • Rank on page one for X primary keywords

  • Achieve an X% conversion rate from organic traffic to leads/trials

  • Optimize your highest performing pages

  • Decrease bounce rates by X%

  • Build X amount of new backlinks to your site each month

More likely than not, if you're managing SEO projects for a client, you have to show the progress of the results. Using a Data Studio template like this one from SEMrush is a great way to start gathering traffic, bounce, and conversation rate data into one report.

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2. Identify what you need to achieve your goals

After you have set out your goals, start identifying what you’ll need to achieve them. Some of the key factors you’ll need to consider are ways you will communicate and collaborate with clients.

If your project is to be a success, you'll need the full support of all stakeholders. They will need to be fully informed of your plans for the project's full duration, making effective communication and collaboration key.

An SEO project often has many stakeholders: the tech SEO, the SEO strategist, the content manager, the outreach manager, etc. These stakeholders must practice good communication and ensure everyone knows what their team members are doing.

Blog post image Start by using's agency project management software to better collaborate with your clients. was specifically built with client services teams in mind, so you can easily comment on tasks, use internal messaging, and work from a centralized project management hub with your clients.

3.  Outline the tasks you need to complete

The tasks you set out to complete should always be tied to the project's overall goals. Some of your goals might be growing site traffic, increasing sales, or boosting brand awareness.

Always ask yourself how the task your team is working on is bringing you closer to achieving them.

For example, if you are looking into increasing your client’s ranking position for certain keywords, examine how that fits into the bigger picture. Break the goal down into actionable tasks and then into smaller subtasks. This might look something like this: 

Breaking the project down into smaller chunks allows you to manage and track updates. makes it a breeze to assign tasks into lists to those with the skills to handle them and prioritize the most important items that will have an immediate impact (like updating on-page titles and metadata), so your clients can see results quickly. 

Some tasks are dependable on others and could be created as subtasks. "You don't want to start content development until you've finished with keyword research", recommends the SEO consultant Oleg Donets.

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4. Track your projects with a bird's-eye view of your progress

Just like how your clients appreciate insights into your performance, you probably want an easy view of your own team's workflow. It pays to get immediate answers to questions like:

  • Can we take on additional work from a client?

  • How are we pacing toward our originally-planned milestones?

  • What tasks fit under each project for the client?

  • What have we completed and what still needs to be done?

Get a more helpful look into your progress with a bird's-eye view of your progress. Use's detailed Planned vs. Actual Milestones Report to break down exactly what you need to know at the moment, so you can make adjustments on the fly.

Blog post image Whether you're reassigning tasks, checking the productivity of assignees, or looking into the overall task completion rates amongst the team, this report has you covered.

If you need a more in-depth breakdown of your projects from start to finish, try using's Gantt chart builder. This feature is another option for SEO project managers to display the start and finish dates of a project's tasks in a bar chart format.

Blog post image This helps outline the time that will be dedicated to each task, the resources that are needed, milestones, and subtasks. You could also make a custom task list and record the necessary information there.

Remember to share this task list with your client to get their input.

5. Use project time tracking tools to bill clients more efficiently

For some employees, time tracking software can feel a bit intrusive on their workflows. But what's important to consider is the fact many SEOs work outside of scope to complete projects for their clients.

And for SEO team leads, you're not only hurting your available resources but missing essential billing opportunities without tracking the actual time spent on a project.'s time tracking tools were built to help you know what exactly to bill your clients.

Blog post image If you read this blog often, you know we say this often – transparency is crucial toward building a healthy client relationship. Time tracking tools help you present a clear breakdown of where time is spent while highlighting areas where your project is progressing or hitting roadblocks.

This lets both you and your client make important decisions on where to best spend your time and effort.

6. Plan your budget well in advance

Before you begin your project, discuss the budget with your client. The size of your budget will determine the scale of the project and the resources you'll need.

It’s in everyone’s best interests to be on the same page when it comes to spending. Clearly outline to your client how you intend to spend their investment. This is a good way for you to stay on track financially.

Try to be somewhat flexible with your budget, as you may need to spend more than what you had initially planned. If that’s the case, be completely transparent with the client about why you need to spend more and what it will accomplish.

However, the most challenging part of a budget for a project manager is keeping track of spending once a project kicks off. That's why's profitability tools help you automatically track how much time your team spends on tasks so you can better calculate billable hours. 

Blog post image Easily set a budget before any work starts so every minute of your team's hard work is tracked and paid for. It's also an ideal way to calculate different pay rates. For example, if your SEO strategist and content manager have different hourly rates. automatically calculates them based on their billable hours and reflects spending in the real-time budget tracker. Or if the budget is getting close to reaching its limit, Teamwor.comk notifies the project manager. Then you can make a decision on whether or not to continue the work or talk to the client about increasing the budget.

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7. Properly allocate your available team resources

Finally, who will do the work? While you may be overseeing the project, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be doing all the work as the team lead.

SEO is often a complex process and requires more than one pair of hands. And for marketing agencies with larger SEO teams, it pays to take the time to figure out who is needed to complete the project – no matter if it's an SEO, developer, or copywriter.'s resource planning features make it simple for team leads to see if a contributor is overwhelmed or underutilized. And with historical data, it's easier to spot productivity trends on your team or see if a specific client is requiring the work of two SEOs but only paying for one.

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8. Consider inviting your clients to

Transparency is key to great client relationships. There, we said it again!

But with,, you can invite your clients to the platform for free. Openly collaborate and communicate in one central space with your clients to ensure everything is on track.

However, let's be real.

The truth is many agencies have limited resources and hours in their week to complete all of their projects, especially for SEOs who need hours to complete site crawls or content audits. Inviting clients might sound like a lot of hand-holding and extra work.

Get ahead of any prodding clients by using to invite clients into their workspace, but also set boundaries with user permissions. The client can directly interact with the project by adding tasks or replying to messages or get as little or as much info in as you allow.

Blog post image Project managers will have complete control over how much access a client has to a project board, including time logs, budgets, and updates. If a client wants automated email updates whenever a big milestone is completed, all the project manager has to do is change the permission inside the user settings and hit save.

Why SEO client management software is a must

SEO project management can be complicated, and having the right toolkit is crucial if you want to deliver results for your clients. Like any other project, SEO work takes planning and, if your agency is working with multiple clients at once, some juggling. 

SEO client management software is designed to help teams work more efficiently, whether in the same building or spread across the globe. When choosing an SEO client management software, look for a tool that will allow you to:

  • Set clear goals for your team: Competitive analysis, keyword research, and site crawls are complex tasks. SEO client management software is designed to link each task and milestone to an overarching goal to keep your team focused and on track.

  • Prioritize tasks: There's no sugar-coating it: Some tasks within a project are more important than others. The right tool will allow project managers to tag tasks by priority, so if the team runs low on time, they know which ones they should be prioritizing.

  • Have open communication channels: Communicating clearly with clients and keeping them updated on a project's progress helps keep everyone in the loop. An SEO client management software will allow project managers to invite clients into a project so they can see what tasks have been completed and if the team is staying on deadline.

Centralizing communication with your clients also eliminates decision-making delays and gives you a paper trail of all key decisions made on the project. It's an ideal way to build a stronger relationship with your client and make sure that your goals are aligned from start to finish.

Kicking off your SEO project

Now that you’ve looked at the steps involved in successful SEO project management, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice.

You should always approach an SEO project with an emphasis on good communication. If you’re fully in sync with your client and team members, you’ll be more likely to make the right decisions for your project.

A well-managed SEO project increases the chances of achieving your SEO goals. But even after the project is finished, the work needs to continue.

SEO is always evolving, so you should be constantly refining and revising your strategies.

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