A great SEO team is only as good as the people in it because they play a critical role in making the company and clients successful.
After single-handedly starting the SEO practice at Havas Media and growing it to a team of more than 10 (that earned millions in revenue for our clients), and then managing the team at Acronym, I’ve learned a few things.
Here are my top 11 tips for building and managing a great SEO team.
1. Create an Environment in Which People Are Always Learning
This is one of the most important things you can ever do for your team.
If your team feels they are not keeping up with the latest advances in machine learning, AI, content, etc., they are going to leave and find a new job where they will.
In our weekly SEO meetings, we always have roundtable discussions about what is new in SEO and we share our experiences.
I also have the team prepare presentations about a wide variety of topics related to SEO and we critique each other’s presentations and provide feedback, which helps each member of the team improve and grow.
It’s also always a good idea to give team members topics they might not have exposure to like local search, etc.
2. Always Keep Your Team in the Loop About What Is Going on so They Feel They Are Part of Something Great
If you win some big accounts, let them know and let them prepare audits and help in new businesses pitches or RFIs and RFPs.
Conversely, if you lose business, let them know why you lost the business and see if there is a common theme so you know what you need to do to get better or can fix the issue at the top with the senior leadership team.
3. Listen to Everyone’s Ideas & Be Flexible
Everyone has different ideas and different ways of looking at things.
Sometimes your team might think of something you did not think of, but collectively you can bring all your experiences, methodologies, and tests to the table and come up with winning strategies and tactics to make your clients successful.
4. Make Sure You Have the Greatest Technology & Know What Else Is Out There
SEO is always changing. New vendors are constantly entering the marketplace with new solutions.
Make sure you bring in vendors to help you solve some of your problems and keep your team up to date on the latest technologies available.
5. Track Your Time
This is one of the most important aspects of managing the team that most people hate (i.e., putting in your time).
At an agency, your end goal is to make sure you’re profitable. Putting in your time helps you reach that goal to show where you:
- Have too many resources.
- Don’t have enough resources and need to hire.
- Should charge the client more because you’re going over hours every month.
Invest in a good technology to keep track of time and profitability.
6. Attend Conferences
You may think you’re the hottest and smartest SEO in town. But there are veterans who have more experience than you and offer a wider knowledge base that you must tap into, too.
A good way to hear what they are saying is to attend industry conferences.
Before you go crazy making a list of all 2018 conferences, do some research and make sure you take time to look at the keynotes and panel topics because you may already know too much about these topics to make it worthwhile.
Review the speakers to learn about their experiences and background to see if the topic is a good fit based on your own experience. Also build up a case for why you should go to the conference, what you expect to get out of it, and come back and present it to the team if you get approval.
7. Give Feedback & Be Fair
One of the best pieces of advice I can give after doing many reviews is to always give both positive and negative feedback.
If your employee has things they need to work on – let’s say communication, answering client questions, or preparing presentations – they need to hear the truth.
Just because you like the person does not mean they should get a free pass. You must be honest and give constructive criticism to make that person better and stronger.
If SEO isn’t the right career path for them, it’s better they know early instead of wasting their time.
8. Promote Employees Who Deserve It
If you have some employees who have really been proactive, have gotten great results for their clients, who go above and beyond all the time, are loved by the client, upsell these clients on other services (i.e., content, local search, etc.) reward this person by bringing them up to the next level.
Always give them a good pay increase with the promotion.
SEO is a competitive market.
Entry- to mid-level SEO professionals are constantly getting called by recruiters that are offering more money, so make sure you stay on top of this!
9. Be Flexible
If an employee is responsible, always on client calls, gets their work done, produces good deliverables and manages accounts well, give them an incentive, like maybe a work from home day or a day to come in late.
This also goes a long way.
10. Make Employees Feel Appreciated
If an employee does something great, share it with the rest of the organization through email, announcing it in your newsletter, company meetings, etc.
This will make your employee feel the love.
11. Always Have an Open-Door Policy
If your employee is having an issue – whether personal or work-related – that can impact their work, let them know you’re always there for them.
Hear them out and be reasonable.
Bonus Tip: Always Cross-Train with Internal Teams like Paid Search & Analytics
Search marketing works well together. This will also help your employees get more well-rounded and enable them to answer client questions if other teams are not on a call.
Additionally, this makes your employees feel they are at an organization that supports learning outside of their core service area.
So, there you have it: My top 11– or rather 12 – tips for building and managing an SEO team.
There are always more things you can do, but if you follow these tips, you will have a happy team that will not only produce great results for your clients, but they will stick around for awhile.
More SEO Resources:
- The Epic Rise of SEO: How, Why & Where to Invest
- Selling SEO Services: 72 Things You Need to Know
- SEO & UX: The Perfect Team for Search Success
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