The Ultimate Guide to SEO Project Management
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be one of the biggest contributing factors to a business’ online success.
If you appear higher in search results, you’re likely to get more site visits. And increased site visits can lead to more conversions.
A well-planned SEO campaign is your best chance of getting to number one in the organic results.
But an SEO campaign has a lot of moving parts, so it can be difficult to keep on top of everything.
Adopting a project management approach will ensure that your SEO campaign stays on track and will help maximize your results.
In this guide, we'll teach you everything you need to know about SEO project management and how to use project management to improve your SEO campaigns.
But before we get into the nitty gritty, there's a few things we need to cover:
What is SEO project management?
SEO project management involves the planning and coordination of any project related to SEO.
One of the easiest ways to mess up an SEO campaign, is by failing to adhere to task hierarchies. Oleg Donets, an SEO consultant, explains that "you don't want to start content development until you've finished with keyword research and site architecture"
With SEO project management, you can create a more structured environment, breaking everything down into tasks and sub-tasks.
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 could break other actions down into sub tasks, such as checking for redirect chains, bad redirects, broken links, orphaned pages, non-indexable pages, pages without valid canonical tags etc.
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 then check each item off as they fix the issue.
All in all, SEO project management allows you to create structured SEO campaigns, meaning your SEO team can work in a more efficient and effective way. 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.
More often than not, SEO can take months to show tangible results. It can be 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.
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.
A good SEO project manager will be able to clearly communicate their plans to a client and outline the benefits for their business. They will need to have strong communication, organization, time management and leadership skills.
Creating your SEO project management plan
Now that you know the basics of SEO project management, it's time to delve into the details. The best projects start with a bullet-proof plan.
In this guide, we're going to take you through everything you need to know to build a great SEO project, starting with a project management plan.
Breaking down your SEO project into concise steps and actionable tasks is essential. It clarifies the entire process for both your team and the client, and outlines what needs to be accomplished.
The following steps are all important parts of a successful SEO project management plan:
1. Set your goals
Before you begin 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 site visitors per month by X date
Increase traffic by X amount month on month
Rank on page one for X keywords
Achieve an X% conversion rate from organic traffic
Optimize your highest performing site pages
Decrease bounce rate by X%
Build X amount of new backlinks to your site
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:
An SEO project often requires specific tools that help you to complete your tasks. For example, SEO tools like Moz Pro, SEMrush, Ahrefs or Sitechecker will give you access to valuable data and insights that will inform your SEO strategy. They also allow you to effectively measure your performance. Reporting is also very important to an SEO project, (especially when it comes to keeping clients happy), tools like Agency Analytics allow you to track your keywords, backlinks, technical SEO and more.
Project management software will help you to ensure that managing your SEO project is seamless and straightforward. Tools like Teamwork allow you to easily manage a complex SEO project and break it down into actionable tasks.
You can assign tasks to your team and if a client needs to have input on your project, you can give them controlled access to the tool. Teamwork gives you the ability to structure your project and set important milestones for it.
Communication and collaboration
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 full duration of the project, 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. Each of these stakeholders will need to practice good communication, ensuring everyone knows what their team members are doing.
You can collaborate with your client using our agency project management software, which allows for commenting on tasks and internal messaging. It also provides you with a central hub to store all info relating to the project.
Hold regular catch-ups with your client and take note of their thoughts and opinions on the project. Present your ideas to them clearly, ensuring that they have a full understanding of what you plan on doing.
Some of the things you may need to discuss with your client include the type of content they want to publish, the keywords they want to target or the links they want to build.
All of these options let you easily map out and visualize the work you’re doing in an SEO project.
Kanban boards often utilize themed columns, with titles like ’To do’, ‘In progress’, and ‘Out for review’, which allows you to quickly check what stage your tasks are at.
A Gantt chart will display the start and finish dates of your tasks in a bar chart format. It 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.
Use a time tracking tool on each task so you know exactly what you should be billing clients. When billing is managed correctly it helps to ensure the profitability of your SEO project.
A clear breakdown of where time is being spent will highlight areas where your project is progressing smoothly and where it’s hitting roadblocks.
Knowing how long tasks are taking to complete makes it easier for you to manage your team and timeline. It’s also very reassuring for clients, as it gives them full visibility of the work you’re doing.
Before you begin your project, discuss what your budget will be with your client. The size of your budget will determine the scale of the project and the resources you will have access to.
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.
Who will do the work?
While you may be overseeing the project, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be doing all the work.
SEO is often a complex process and requires more than one pair of hands. Take the time to figure out who you’ll need to bring into the fold to help you complete your project.
If you work in an agency, you may already have your team on board. If you do need additional help, it could be worth taking on a freelancer for the duration of the project.
No matter who is involved, make sure they familiarize themselves thoroughly with the client and their business. This will give them a better understanding of the goals the client wants to achieve.
3. Outline the tasks you need to complete
The tasks which you set out to complete should always be tied into the overall goals of the project.
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 everything down into actionable tasks and then into smaller subtasks. This makes your SEO project much easier to manage and track. Prioritize your most important tasks and be mindful of other active projects that may overlap with this one.
With Teamwork, you can create a custom task list for your project and save your task list template to use it again in another project.
4. Stick to a timeline
To finish your project on time, put deadlines in place for all of your tasks and subtasks. As we’ve already mentioned, good time tracking helps to make sure deadlines are met.
Your client may already have a date in mind that they’d like to see the project completed by, but work with them to figure out a date which suits everyone.
Set milestones for your project that you can strategically work towards. This helps to structure your project and makes it easier for you to figure out the best path to achieving your goals.
5. Assign tasks to team members
After you have outlined the tasks that need to be completed and you have decided when they will need to be finished, begin assigning them to your team members.
Part of being a successful SEO project manager is having the awareness to know what skills are needed to complete the project’s respective tasks.
Work on identifying which team member is best suited for each task. Then clearly communicate what you expect from them.
Make sure they are aware of the deadlines they need to meet, but also make yourself available to support them.
Both clients and your team members can comment on tasks and milestones in Teamwork. This allows for more transparent communication. If ideas and opinions aren’t openly shared, SEO project management can become difficult.
6. Measure and report what you’ve done
Measuring your SEO performance and collecting relevant data helps you determine what’s going right and what needs improving.
Speak to your client to get their opinions on the project and take their feedback on board. After seeing the data, they may want you to make some changes. Always ensure that the information you share with them is accurate, valuable and easy to understand.
Good SEO project management involves iterating on what you’re doing well. But it also involves fine tuning or scrapping what’s holding the project back from reaching its goals.
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 never stops, and it’s always evolving, so you should be constantly refining and revising your strategies.