Why Is Project Management Undervalued In SEO?

I’ll be the first to admit that I have little knowledge of formal project management. While I cherish quality project managers and certainly know the importance of prioritization, stakeholders, and overall project management, it is not my job.

My job is to bring the best SEO strategies and ideas into an organization. Luckily for me, I have an entire team at AudetteMedia that includes skilled account and project managers, so I can blunder around with a lot of ideas in my head and not worry too much about how they’re organized.

But SEO is a unique discipline and requires very unique project management (PM) skills. Here are a few areas that make SEO uniquely difficult for project managers:

  1. SEO touches more areas of an enterprise business than most any other channel. Marketing, development, user experience, taxonomy, public relations, social media, branding, and even legal are all impacted, involved, or indirectly influenced by SEO tactics and strategies.
  2. SEO is successful when it is elastic and flexible. Strategies change rapidly.
  3. SEO is difficult to track and report on, difficult to monitor effectively, and can be slow to show results.
  4. SEO projects can sometimes take a very long time.

In my experience, working on SEO campaigns with multi-billion dollar enterprises, the project manager role is always essential, but usually not given nearly enough attention.

I have worked with some awesome PMs before, and sadly, I’ve worked with some pretty stinky ones, too.

All too often, the less skilled PMs will compensate by using a ham-fisted, brute force approach, even resorting to a generally pugnacious attitude to “get things done” at the expense of other teams.

SEO needs skilled project managers. In time, we’ll see this field develop and hopefully evolve into dedicated SEO project managers in the future. But we need skilled project managers that know SEO, because SEO is uniquely challenging and requires specific knowledge and experience.

Here are some reasons why project managers are uniquely important in SEO:

  1. They must take the often ambiguous “action items” of SEO teams and capture actionable next steps.
  2. They must traverse across departments, sometimes across departments they rarely interact with in unison (development and public relations, for example).
  3. They must “speak the language” of stakeholders and the SEOs; this can be extremely challenging.
  4. They must be able to comprehend and summarize complex ideas and strategies in reasonably simple terms.

What are your experiences with project management in the enterprise?

Here are some other excellent resources:

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Industrial Strength


About The Author: is the Chief Knowledge Officer at RKG, where he blogs regularly. You'll find him speaking at conferences around the world when he's not riding down mountains on something fast. Follow Adam on Twitter as @audette.

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  • http://nspso.com Pterobite

    The difficulty of project management and SEO is confusion of what a Project is and what a Process or Program is.
    A project is defined as a confined group of tasks with a beginning and an end within constraints. These constraints are usually time and or money. If you define an initial SEO project such as bringing URL’ls into best practices, modifying the meta tags, building X number of links etc., within this definition a project and the typical project methodologies work well. You can define the task, the resources and time frames fairly well and a good PM should have no problem with it.

    The problem comes in when you undertake an improvement or marketing program. This is an iterative process that requires testing and flexibility. When you enter into this phase you need to switch to either a Program or SCRUM process. Both of these have the ability to handle the variables of time, cost and changing objectives that an SEO process entails. I encourage the use of SCRUM in these cases whenever possible.

  • http://www.seocharlie.com/blog Carlos Chacón l SEO

    I do believe any SEO must be ready to deal with so many other “problems” non SEO related. Timing or human resources will be the issue for that SEO because clients wants “All in One” when hiring a SEO professional.

    Even with Google faster than ever, SEO requires time to show not just results; ROI. Keyword research + test + error + etc.

    This is not about SEO skills, it´s about project objectives…

  • coldenburg

    Because of how quickly SEM can change a good project manager is essential. A good PM always knows they need the ability to be flexible with some conbintation of money, time or people, and without felxibility in these resources SEM is doomed to fail. As an PM in SEM I am glad to see conversations like this that place value on what we do. Thanks Adam!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1165730564 Michael Muselík

    I think, that many SEO companies  have set up processes based on own experience, but often neglect the needs and requirements of clients. It is important to realize that professional SEO optimization should primarily reflect the needs and 
    requirements of clients. 


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