One of the biggest challenges with SEO in this day and age, is that it takes longer to get results. There is more than ever that has to come together. And when you couple that with the fact that you need more input and tasks delivered by other people and teams, it compounds the difficulty. But make no mistake: to move the needle, you need your eye on the ball and consistent action. This requires an understanding of how to manage SEO projects more efficiently.
I have so many smart colleagues in the industry who are doing well at this, I thought we could all learn a thing or two from these savvy professionals. So I’m reaching out and interviewing all of these smart people to get their answers to the following questions:
- How do you keep SEO plans and projects organized so you know exactly what to do next?
- What do you use to document your project to-do’s?
- Do you see SEO success coming from one-time work, or from consistent implementation of repeat activities?
- Because SEO takes multiple channels and departments coming together, I often see SEO projects stall and never get through completion. How do you get stuff done? What is your secret to execution? What tips do you have for project managing through to completion when others are involved?
- What do you think is the most important under-valued tactic?
- Do you have any insight, or opinions, to share about how to win at SEO in 2020?
I designed these questions not so much to address the “how-to” of SEO, but more so get a peek into the behind-the-scenes work it takes to see success.
First up, I have a special treat for you: my friend and colleague, Shannon Henrici, SEO Manager at the American Red Cross.
SEO Interview with Shannon Henrici, SEO Manager at the American Red Cross
Welcome, Shannon! Thank you for being here. You’ve been in the field for a long time and have seen it all – what do you think it takes for SEO success today?
I feel that the key to being successful in SEO is to understand people, what makes them act, what questions are they trying to answer, and how you can help them.
In my career, patience has been learned. It didn’t come easy at first. SEO 10 years ago was very different. We saw major successes in much shorter turnaround times. Today, one change can take three to six months to show any changes, if any. Being patient and sticking to your plan, pays off.
Believe in yourself, even when others don’t. Having been in the trenches for as long as I have, I know that my recommendations are coming from experience. No one has the exact answer and we are all experimenting and guessing, just make sure you are making an educated guess. Research. Ask questions. Find out what others have done and how it worked. Read. Read. Read.
Last of all, be flexible. In most cases there is more than one way to get something done. I have made a lot of compromises and they have paid off. Each time I get a no, which happens often, instead of pushing the issue I ask, “Is there another way we can do this and accomplish the same goal?” I feel that it has helped to get buy-in and push a project forward.
One of the struggles I’ve seen marketers face, is there is so much to do, but that often leads to paralysis by analysis and overwhelm. How do you keep SEO projects organized so you know exactly what to do next?
Analysis paralysis is definitely a battle. There is always a lot to do, but never enough time to get it all done. I break out my week into two focuses:
Maintenance and Enhancements.
- The maintenance portion of my site, I watch rank movements on a weekly basis to watch for trends. As we all know, rankings are constantly moving up and down. Watching for the trend over a month or even two month period lets me know where the dam is leaking, so I know where to start the fixing process. These tasks are usually of a higher priority, because the rankings were high at first and we are starting to lose ground.
- Enhancements – I review the rankings every quarter to look for low hanging fruit or opportunities in which someone is ranking better for one of our main keywords. I create a plan to execute for these enhancements that I will move forward each quarter (time permitting.) Many times budget or staff constraints will move these plans back. This is the area in which I can be flexible in time frames, so I build in time for delays.
What do you use to document your to-do’s?
I keep an ongoing project plan in Trello with two boards labeled – maintenance and enhancements. I have my columns set up as follows:
- In Progress
- Waiting on Approval
Do you see SEO success coming from one-time work, or from consistent implementation of repeat activities?
I have found that both ongoing maintenance and one time projects improve our performance.
Ongoing tasks involve the following:
- Clean up of orphaned pages and or broken links
- Load time optimization
- Content creation
- Tweaking on-page content, such as headers and page titles
One time projects fall into the enhancement category. I schedule a few enhancements each quarter based on the workload of the web team.
For example, I recently contracted with an agency to do a test backlink outreach project. After three months, we saw movement to the first page for some of the keywords we focused on for the project.
Because SEO takes multiple channels and departments coming together, I often see SEO projects stall and never get through completion. How do you get stuff done? What is your secret to execution? What tips do you have for how to manage SEO projects through to completion when others are involved?
I always create a justification for the change or enhancement I am recommending. Once I have the numbers, I work with the team to get buy-in. I like to make sure everyone understands the recommendation and is on board.
I run into a lot of delays, they are common. Being flexible and willing to make adjustments to the schedule based on the needs of the business is key. A lot of quick fixes or emergencies will take precedence over my projects. I lift and shift to accommodate.
My list of enhancements is evergreen and always growing. I refer back to it each month to see where we can restart or even start a new project. The list serves as a tickler to remind me. I rank the list in order of priority, so that I know which ones need to be done first.
Then it is just a game of persistence and patience. Not everything can get done. I take things one step at a time and keep chipping away at the list.
What do you think is the most important under-valued tactic?
By far it is backlink clean up and building. I have always seen a lot of success when it is implemented correctly.
Do you have any insight, or opinions, to share about how to win at SEO in 2020?
AI is here! Time to start focusing more on intent and less on specific keyword performance. I have always been a proponent of understanding users and what they want in the SERPS. It is more important now than ever.
Get to know your ideal consumer – I mean really get to know them. What do they want to know? What questions are they asking? How can you fulfill their need with your service? How can you get your name in front of them during their research?
Great insight and reminders, right? Thanks, Shannon!
Stay tuned for the next interview in our “How to Manage SEO Projects” interview series.
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