SEO Project Management: How To Run An Effective SEO Strategy [TEMPLATE]

Rachel Lentner • September 1, 2022

SEO Project Management

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Are you a marketing manager struggling to cope with all the workstreams involved in executing your own SEO strategy?

Or maybe you’re a long-time SEO pro just looking to top up your campaign management knowledge…

Whatever the case, you’ve come to the right place!

This post is all about the subtle art of SEO project management. Our aim is to explain why it’s essential for SEO success and offer some expert tips on how to do it better. We’ll break down the various responsibilities of SEO project managers, dive into the characteristic features of a winning management strategy, and show some ways of using software to streamline the overall process.

But first, what exactly do we mean by SEO project management?

What Is SEO Project Management?

SEO project management refers to the planning and coordination of all tasks and subtasks involved in building a successful SEO campaign.

It’s all about orchestrating the different workflows needed to move an SEO project forward, ensuring that the right tasks are worked on, by the right people, at the right time.

Why Is SEO Project Management Important?

SEO campaigns involve many interconnected activities, like technical audits, market research, content planning, and strategic outreach. A delay or oversight in any of these areas can have a negative knock-on effect on other parts of the project, which risks jeopardizing the campaign’s overall success.

SEO project management lets teams avoid this outcome by providing a coherent framework for planning, assigning, and monitoring the various tasks that feed into the SEO roadmap. This, in turn, lets SEO teams achieve their goals with greater reliability and efficiency. After all, effective collaboration is much easier when there’s a teamwide understanding of the who, what, when, and why of different tasks.

Disorganization and disunity can quickly spread through an SEO team that lacks thoughtful project management. Without clearly defined responsibilities and standardized processes, it becomes hard to tell which tasks have been completed and delivered, what still needs work, and who has ownership of different activities.

What Does An SEO Project Manager Do?

The main job of an SEO project manager is to bring a top-level SEO strategy to life by breaking it down into a series of well-defined tasks and subtasks.

Project managers will plan what needs to be done, assign responsibilities to the relevant team members, and keep track of deliverables to ensure the project is completed on time. This is true whether they’re leading an in-house SEO team or working within a specialist agency.

Here’s a sample of some day-to-day responsibilities of an SEO project manager:

  • Building a strategy for achieving SEO objectives
  • Defining tasks and developing task schedules
  • Allocating tasks to different team members
  • Looking for new ways to automate and optimize workflows
  • Overseeing weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports
  • Analyzing website ranking and traffic performance
  • Checking in with the team and reviewing status updates
  • Conducting quality checks on deliverables
  • Implementing website changes and evaluating their impact
  • Communicating with upper management, other departments, and external stakeholders

Overwhelmed Managing an SEO Campaign?
(If you’re a marketing manager who is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of managing your SEO campaigns in-house, don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss alternative options.)

6 Rules For Effective SEO Project Management

So what are the most important things to get right when it comes to SEO project management?

Well, in our experience, it’s impossible to build accurate and efficient SEO project workflows without following these six rules:

1. Understand SEO Deliverables

It goes without saying that SEO project managers should possess a solid understanding of typical SEO deliverables, including what goes into creating them and how they feed into the team’s broader SEO strategy.

This understanding is essential for providing accurate instructions when assigning tasks to other team members and ensuring enough time is allocated for completing each piece of work.

Here’s a quick reminder of some standard SEO deliverables:

  • Market research
  • Keyword research
  • Content audit
  • Content gap analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Technical audit
  • Backlink analysis/audit
  • Google Analytics audit
  • XML sitemap configuration
  • URL redirection
  • Internal linking analysis
  • Site-speed testing
  • Link reclamation
  • Content ideation and planning
  • On-page optimization
  • Digital PR and link building
  • Performance reporting

2. Plan With Care

Effective planning is a hallmark of all good project management.

Since each phase of an SEO campaign has its own deadlines and milestones, project managers need to think intentionally about which tasks need to be completed in what order and how much time to allocate for them. To strike the right balance here, they need to consider factors such as campaign objectives, team bandwidth, available budget and resources, expected timeframes for approvals, and the target date for project completion.

Project managers should build ‘buffer zones’ around each task when creating project schedules. This allows them to accommodate one-off requests or unforeseen roadblocks without throwing the entire project off course.

With a well-defined and realistic SEO timeline in place, team members don’t have to worry about what to work on next or whether the project is falling behind. Instead, they can simply focus on completing their designated tasks by the specified due dates.

3. Establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Setting some ground rules for using project management systems drastically reduces misunderstandings and inefficiencies within SEO teams and minimizes the need to micromanage individual team members.

Additionally, creating a documented process makes it much easier to onboard new hires and ensure projects don’t grind to a halt each time a key team member is absent or unavailable. 

Here are some standard practices that help when using a project management system:

  • The project manager should provide clear instructions for all the tasks they assign team members so that they know what’s expected of them. Each task should link to related tasks and include any relevant background information that could help team members complete the task without making mistakes or asking for more context.
  • Team members should regularly update task statuses to indicate how each item is coming along and tag whoever is responsible for the next steps. For example, once a team member finalizes their work for a given deliverable, they might change the corresponding task status from “Working” to “Needs Team Lead’s Review.” Using statuses this way means the project manager can always tell how the project is progressing and where adjustments may be needed.
  • If a team member realizes they cannot complete a given task by its assigned due date, they should immediately inform the project manager, who can reschedule it as necessary.
  • Likewise, team members should comment on outstanding tasks before logging off for the day. For example: “Need to finalize X aspect of the task tomorrow morning.” This ensures the project manager knows why a particular task is still outstanding and how to adjust the due date accordingly.
  • Team members should adhere to the priority levels assigned to each task to determine what to work on first. 

4. Prioritize Communication

In addition to establishing clear SOPs for working on tasks, project managers should try to foster a more general culture of communication and knowledge sharing within their teams. 

Free-flowing, transparent communication keeps everyone on the same page, lets people contribute new ideas, and, as a result, makes it easier to identify potential ways of improving strategies and processes.

Project managers should check in regularly with individual team members and encourage them to speak openly. How are they coping with the workload? Are there recurring points of friction? And are there more ways to support them? 

5. Do Sweat The Small Stuff

A keen eye for detail is another key ingredient of effective project management.

Unlike most team members, the SEO project manager has a bird’s-eye view of the entire campaign or project and is therefore uniquely placed to judge whether a given deliverable is lacking in the necessary quality or context.  

Being detail-oriented will ensure that each project component works to fulfill the broader campaign vision.

6. Lead By Example

Since SEO project managers are responsible for ensuring SEO campaigns are delivered on time and to the highest standards possible, it’s up to them to maintain team morale and rally the troops whenever the going gets tough. 

The best way to keep a team motivated is to lead by example. This means staying positive, focusing on finding solutions when problems crop up, and maintaining a commitment to producing high-quality output. 

Project managers can also promote team cohesion by making the most of each individual’s unique strengths and praising great work when they see it.

[Template] Making The Most Of Project Management Tools

We’ve already touched on how project management systems can be used to assign and track the progress of different portions of an SEO campaign.

Indeed, project management tools can play a massive role in ensuring SEO projects run smoothly and efficiently.

Here at Break The Web, our preferred project management app is ClickUp.

Below are some ways we use this tool when managing our clients’ SEO projects. Note that other project management systems also offer similar features and functionality.

Creating Custom Statuses

ClickUp lets us create customized statuses tailored to our specific projects, ensuring that everyone understands how a given task is progressing and who is responsible for the next step.

Here’s an example of some of the custom statuses we use.

These task statuses also contain some neat automated features. For example, if one of our team members changes a task status to “Ready For DPM Review,” it will automatically assign our Digital Project Manager to that task.

Top-Level Task Monitoring

ClickUp’s custom dashboard options and different views for monitoring tasks are especially handy for project managers.

The thing is, project managers aren’t only monitoring the progress of tasks due on a given day. They’re also keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon and planning for future tasks based on their team’s available bandwidth. 

ClickUp’s ‘Calendar View’ makes it easy to view our upcoming task schedule so we can re-prioritize items or build more effective buffers if our team is particularly busy. We can also filter by individual team members to ensure they aren’t overloaded with tasks on a particular day, week, or month.

The ‘Task By Due Date’ view is also helpful for seeing which deliverables the project manager needs to review and approve on any given day.

Setting Recurring Tasks

Since the SEO process is always ongoing, we regularly revisit or repeat a number of tasks. 

ClickUp’s ‘Recurring Tasks’ feature lets us set these tasks to repeat periodically (monthly, quarterly, twice a year, etc.). This helps us automate much of the management process, lets our team plan ahead, and ensures we remain consistent and thorough in our SEO efforts.

Creating Tasks From Call Notes

ClickUp’s ‘Notes’ feature also lets us create call agendas and take notes during calls with clients or other stakeholders. 

If a new request comes up during a phone conversation, we can immediately take that line from our notes and turn it into a task once the call wraps up.

Note: we also use Hypercontext for organizing meeting agendas and notes

It’s Time To Take Charge Of Your SEO Campaigns! 

Although it’s easy to understand the rationale for investing in SEO, designing and implementing an SEO strategy that achieves consistent results is much harder than it might seem at first. 

Bringing an SEO campaign to fruition involves the interplay of many workstreams, each containing its own collection of moving parts. SEO project management is the art of ensuring these components all work together to deliver on your campaign objectives.

We’ve seen that effective SEO project management relies on adhering to a number of core rules. Using these as the basis of an SEO project management framework and making good use of project management tools offers the best chance of achieving long-term SEO success.

It’s now time for you to put into practice what you’ve learned today and start reaping the rewards of intelligent SEO project management.

But remember, if you’re a business owner finding it difficult to handle the various intricacies of running an SEO campaign yourself, or if you’d simply prefer to outsource the work to the pros, we’re always here to help

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Rachel Lentner

Digital Project Manager

Rachel is a Digital Project Manager at Break The Web, managing a client’s SEO execution progress and ensuring our team is hitting deadlines, budgets, and growth estimates.

You’ll often find her in the depths of our project management system either assigning new tasks or giving a quality check, unless she’s brainstorming ways to improve our workflows and SOPs.

Rachel spends her free time dabbling in copywriting, curling up with a good book, gunning for her next PR on her Peloton, or relaxing at her family’s lake home in northern Minnesota!

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