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Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Project Management in SEO

Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Project Management in SEO

Ross Tavendale

Modified Transcript

Hello SEMrush fans, and welcome to another episode of Weekly Wisdom, or as I like to call it, definitely not white, slightly beige board Thursdays. All I need is a cool 'tache, and I'm hot on the heels of Rand. No, I am only kidding.

When I meet new clients, I often say that SEO is just really advanced admin. The site needs to be technically strong enough for Google to use it and for customers to use it. It needs to be organized in the right way, and it needs to be recommended by other websites. So in short, tech, content, and links, which sounds really simple, right?

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But, what if you have had a link penalty, but also there's a bunch of 404s in your site? What if your sitemap contains non-canonical URLs, but you also have broken links? What if your all attributes are missing from 90% of pages, but descriptions are missing from 10.

Working out how to manage this SEO process is really, really hard, and working out what to do first is of paramount importance. Imagine spending a month of client time fixing their all attributes or writing content on a blog that's not indexed.

SEO Frameworks and Project Management: 

In this Weekly Wisdom, we are going to look at two concepts of project management, as well as diving into Type A Media's own SEO framework we use in client accounts.

Firstly, let's look at the framework for delivering it. There are two types of outputs from an agency. You have got the research, then the delivery. We do research to understand what to physically do, and then we do what we say we will do, really simply.

The research phase is called REST, which stands for research, evaluation, strategy, and tactics.

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Now, research is working out what is happening in the market, and your position relative to your competition. So typical deliverables would be things like keyword research, gap analysis, and competitor analysis.

Evaluation is a little different.

It is working out your offering and understanding your website, products, and customers. Typical deliverables include the technical audit, backlink analysis, a EAT audit, and content quality evaluation. 

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Next step is strategy. That is just deciding what we are doing. Strategy produces broad statements based on research and evaluation. For example, based on the technical audit and our keyword research, we are going to change technical problems and change code on the website, in order to achieve whatever your KPIs are. Strategy is also the place that we set up measurement protocols and timelines, so we can always measure progress against the things that matters.

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Next up is tactics.

That is to say how we actually do it; this is where we get really granular and refer to all of the strategy stuff, and show how we are actually going to implement all of this stuff. Typically, what we look at, if we were looking at, let's say, technical implementation of tactics as high, medium, and low priorities, and then how we are going to be implementing that over time.

The Boom Phase!

Once we know exactly what we are going to do, we are then going to move on to the BOOM phase. BOOM stands for broken site, on-page, off-page, and then measurement.

So broken site is fixing technical issues on the site affecting your customer experience and your SEO. On-page is updating and creating content, and off-page is building all the links. Then, eventually, we go into measurement, which is looking at cause and effect reporting.

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So typically, what you should do is say, "Well, we changed this thing on your website, and then this happened to your organic traffic." At the start of a project, what you are going to want to do is, forecast what you think is going to happen and then show it against actual. So month on month, how close are we to the forecast, and is the work we are doing effective, or do we need to look at our strategy again? Okay, great.

So that's the framework for getting things done in SEO. Next, we need to work out the style in which we are going to do this work.

Three Project Management Concepts

So I need to introduce three project management concepts to you, which are Waterfall, Agile and Kanban.

First of all, let's look at Waterfall. As you can see here, Waterfall is a sequence, so each project depends on the last one in order to be completed.

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So all of this stuff in REST, that is Waterfall, because I can't evaluate without seeing the research, and I cannot build a strategy without seeing the evaluation. And, I certainly cannot start doing tactical implementation without knowing what the strategy is. All of these depend on one another. 

So next up is Agile or Scrum. This is a methodology that software developers use to plan an environment where it is really unpredictable, and there is no real traditional completion point. An example for this would be link building. When do you actually say, "Okay, that's our link building done." Never.

Same with copywriting, like when you say, "Okay, that is all the copy; stick a pin in it. We are done, no more copy for us." It never happens. Also, the actions you take when implementing technical SEO, they are going to actively change as well, right? You have put in a redirect and it completely changes the way the site can be crawled and understood. This is why we need this particular methodology.

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As you can see in Agile, you are going to work in weekly sprints, and what you are going to see is, this is the amount of work we want to complete each week. We are going to spend as hard as possible in order to achieve that. But, if it doesn't get done, it just rolls into the next week.

Now, that doesn't mean that you can just not do your work. Every single week you have something called a wash-up, which when you look at all of the blockers you have had, and also a daily standout to say, "This is the work I am committing to today, and this is what I want to get done." If you have lots and lots of blockers, or things are constantly not being done, then it is up to the project lead to work out why that is not happening and get the work moving a lot faster. 

Okay, lastly is Kanban. This is a very traditional to "do, doing, and done". We have also got this thing called car park here. When you are running a team of people to do this sort of work, having a visual representation can really help you keep track of things. In fact, we are going to take the camera off the tripod and go show you our actual Live Agency Kanban board. 

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All right, so what you can see here is we have got — "to do", "doing", and "done." Everyone here has their own color. So this is people's initials and they have got their own colors, so it is very visual what needs to be done.

Now, we work a four day work week typically, and this is Thursday, so you can see that most of our stuff is actually already done, and this is what everyone's committed to doing for today. We also have the car park (6:46), which you can see these little things in here, which is things that are nice to have, but they are not critical to the project.

Lastly, what we've got here is all of our blockers. Blockers are things that our clients need to give us in order to actually get things done or something that we don't have control over that we are depending on someone else to do. 

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So that is everything for this week's Weekly Wisdom. If you would like our agency to come in and show you how to do this, please do email me (email in video). If you have got specific questions about the methodologies we hve used, please do leave them in the comments below, or you can tweet me at @rtavs. Until next time; we will see you later.

Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Ross is the Managing Director at Type A Media, an independent search agency that work with FTSE250 companies and mid-sized brands to help them find the optimal way to talk to more people online.
When not obsessing over his clients rankings, he hosts the Canonical Chronicle, a weekly web show watched by 100k people every month.
If you want to ask him a direct question you can find him @rtavs on Twitter.
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2000
Sohail
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Wow, Just loved your steps to launch a research based SEO project. Thanks
Trevor Hawley
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

This is a great post. I have spent entirely too much time to trying to understand proper project management procedures and best tools to use. LOVE your acronyms! I'm going to be using those going forward :) I've gone through every PM software out there and may end up circling back to Asana after years of not using it.... Airtable is almost the unicorn but it doesn't do a couple things considering view access/collaboration. Thanks again for the content I think Project Management is the 1 big thing most SEOs all fall short on understanding properly.
Shailendra Vijayvergia
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Before providing proposal assessing the efforts to fix the technial issues (even if it is consultancy), knowing the efforts and communicate to client is critical since it is something which client does not count as value. Client will start his counter from day 1, he signed the contract and will expect the result without considering the time and effort to fix the errors and make the site SEO friendly.
Newcomer

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I think my semrush is not provide me correct info i think because m getting web traffic on website and organic search rapidly but not getting any lead.
Caleb Sylvest
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

I take it this is an SEO PM method you have developed over time with your company. I don't hear SEOs talking about PM methods very often. What are typical management tactics other SEO agencies follow? Or is it just an experiment and developed over time?
Tristam Jarman
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Great video as always Ross. Love this weeks theme :-). Also you broke down how to communicate and track working with clients in an excellent manner. Now just got to get that dev team to get those ‘fixes’ done :).

As always thanks for putting these together. I know it’ll be invaluable to quite a few out there.

Some new acronyms I like there too…
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Tristam Jarman
Thanks Tristam. I think a lot of people think the SEO process is really straightforward. If you have full control and autonomy then it can be but the moment you have multiple stakeholders........ it get's real messy. As an agency owner yourself, I'm sure you've been there a million times. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :-)
Tristam Jarman
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Ross Tavendale
Yep, SEO is seen by many as simple yet don't understand the length and breadth of it. Let's make the world a better place :-) with videos like this. The more people who understand at this level the better everyones lives will be. Number 1 being the client who will be seeing better results... Thanks again for putting this together mate.
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Great Insights!
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Amritan Walia
As a project manager who has studied and implemented these concepts, I can appreciate your use of them within a Search environment. Any way that can improve the dialogue between the dev team and SEO is always a win!

I am enjoying how colourful the board is and it is great that you have a visual representation on work in progress to stem the flow and avoid the teams getting confused on priorities. I feel a lot of agencies can learn from this style of working.
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Amritan Walia
Hi Amritan, thanks for your thoughtful comments. One of the biggest issues we face is the difference between perceived and actual value to the client. Just because we are shipping out loads of work that we think is valuable - it dosen't necessarily mean the client is happy.

The biggest blocker we usually have is dev and agency communications, as you say, these frameworks make it much easier to get things done.
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Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Nishu gaur
dude, did you know that everytime you drop a spammy link on my blog posts a unicorn sheds a rainbow tear?
Astha Upadhyay
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Interesting Research method, Ross. The three project management concepts are also very helpful in managing various tasks at the same time. Thank you very much for sharing your insights.
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Astha Upadhyay
Thanks Astha. Part of our job is to break down complex and disparate concepts for clients and present them in a way the business can understand.....if they fit into silly acronyms like BOOM, even better :-D
Astha Upadhyay
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Ross Tavendale
It's my pleasure.
Honoree Tigrett
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Thank you for sharing your process with us. Love the post it notes!
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Honoree Tigrett
No worries Honoree. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You would be surprised how territorial the team are about their post it note colours lol.
Sebastian Hovv
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Nice whiteboard idea ;) Some interesting insights here!
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Sebastian Hovv
Cheers Sebastian. Appreciate you taking the time to comment :-)
Igal Stolpner
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

BOOM. Loved the acronym Ross, I'm borrowing it!

I'm a big fan of Kanban boards, that's the only way we get things around here. I also have another column called "Track", for important projects that are done and that we need to keep track of over time. Otherwise, we just won't get to it. Great whiteboard video!
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Igal Stolpner
Haha you are welcome to it. We have tons of those to help us remember the process and guide the client. Technically, "Measurement" should come first before everything for benchmark reporting and setting up analytics. But we have a full on boarding process that takes care of that. Interesting use of a "Track" column. Are you using software to do that or is it a physical board? We use Asana for all task tracking and Harvest for time tracking and forecasts.
Igal Stolpner
Expert

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Ross Tavendale
Done, thanks! :)
Had a physical board for years, but for the past 2 years moved to software. Used to be Trello for a long time, now the entire company moved to Smartsheet so I'm getting used to it as well. Of course we use "Track" for the larger projects only, not everything, and it helps a lot with focus.

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