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​I would love to pursue the career of a project manager!

–          Said no one ever.


I am not disrespecting this vocation (you should also know that I manage dozens of projects daily), but it’s not like this profession is something that you can just pick up and apply.

On the contrary, SEO project management is a though cookie to crack. It takes a talented, well-organized individual, who will stay loyal to the cause, and grow along with your company. Their responsibility is to pinpoint bottlenecks, scale projects and break them down into individual milestones. They have to work hard on development of your business model overall, with intelligent solutions, while dealing with people.

If you are looking for a way to improve your SEO project management, know that this process varies depending on the industry you are working in. There are series of steps that you need to test and implement in order to develop a fully functional and profitable model, and it depends on various factors.

However, if you are working in the SEO industry, you are about to hear the inside scoop from a CAO,  a legitimate hard worker who has dealt with countless SEO projects for the past 5 years or so.

Yup, it’s me. I’m the showrunner.

So, without further ado, let me tell you about the 3 inevitable deadlocks and impending challenges that await you if you are looking to manage SEO projects. And hold on, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Question of (Ir)responsibility

How many times have you heard the following phrase:

–          Not my job, not my problem.

This is the favorite excuse of any employee. The harsh reality is – not everyone at your workplace will be highly motivated to do even their own job, and this is the number one issue which can make or break a company.

According to Gallup, only 33% of US workers were actively engaged in their work during the year 2016. So, you have to count on the fact that 7 out of 10 of your employees won’t care about your business at all. Horrifying, but that is the best-case scenario.

Now imagine any of those 7 non-motivated workers spotting an issue they could report and prevent your project from failure, but it’s not their responsibility. It’s not their job, so it’s not their problem, right?

Steve Jobs had a system which I would advise anyone to implement, no matter the industry. What Steve insisted on was that each Apple project had a directly responsible individual. So, if there is any factor/task/issue that no one is responsible for – your DRI always is. This seemingly simple fix helped Apple organize their project management in the best way possible.

Always keep in mind that this industry is in expansion, and chances are –  the challenges that your business model will face during implementation will be unique to your case.

So, whatever happens, always have one responsible individual who will monitor the progress of each project individually. It isn’t their job to fix every issue that someone finds, but it is their responsibility to be aware of this issue and have their team report about any problem that your project might come across.

Creative & Unmanageable Employees

Designers, writers, developers – they all have one trait in common, and that is – creativity. The thing about creativity is that it sometimes takes more than it gives. Scaling projects which depend on someone’s motivation to produce engaging content can sometimes be a real nightmare.

Knowing the weak spots of your creative team is half the battle. More than often, the two following duties and responsibilities may present a challenge for your exceptionally creative worker:

  1.       Time management
  2.       Discipline

Of course, both are vital for a productive workplace. You want (need) all your employees to follow the practices that your business model enforces.

One of the simple hacks which might help you address the first challenge (time management) is to simply keep your actual delivery dates undisclosed. So, when you have a project that is due on the 20th of the month, just move that final date of delivery to the 15th of the month. Or even sooner, depending on the size of the project and priority.

Just keep insisting that they deliver their part of the work within the timeframe set. Another challenging thing about working with creatives is that, quite often, they are very intelligent individuals as well. Know that they are expecting to face the drama when they are late, and if you fail to at least make a remark about them missing the (bogus) deadline, they’ll start asking questions very soon.

Keeping your creative workers interested in their job may seem like a bit of a hassle, but the truth is – creative workers are in demand. According to Richard Florida, creativity is the new economy, and while regular workers are slowly dying out (not literally), creative individuals are rare to find, and are highly appreciated as a working force.

When it comes to discipline, the solution is far from simple, but there is a simple thing that needs to be done:

          Be a leader, never a boss.

Creative people connect with ideas, with people, with goals – they don’t respond well to authoritarian attitudes. On the contrary, if they find themselves in a situation that is limiting their talent, they will fail to deliver even the simplest tasks. Not to mention repetitive tasks!

Which brings us to one of the biggest challenges of project management in any industry.

Repetition is the Mother of all Failure

There is probably a graveyard of failed startups brought to closure by the same plague which devours businesses on the regular – inconsistency. No matter the model, no matter the industry, you probably have a set of tasks that are not automated, that cannot be automated, and you have a certain number of employees who are performing these tasks daily.

Repetitive tasks are mind-numbing. Especially for your creative workers who need challenges and excitement to keep delivering. And they will accept almost any activity, but performing the same task repeatedly.

Except for the lunchtime that your employees will gladly spend in front of the PlayStation in the break room, each day of the week, they will hardly be motivated to deliver the same enthusiasm for any of the chores they should be doing daily.

We have addressed this problem by implementing a gamification model for our repetitive tasks. The approach is quite simple if you have a time tracking tool. We use the Active Collab SEO project management platform, which is  has a time tracker option available, and overall because it is a great application that we recommend.

The concept of our gamification model is simple – we keep a scoreboard of the average time needed for our most repetitive duties to be finished. If you beat the average time – you get a prize.

The prizes vary, but we make sure that progress is rewarded, no matter how small that prize is. If any worker shows continuous improvement within this system – we consider giving them a raise of course, as we are trying to keep this model alive and improve our overall performance continuously.

However, I would advise this approach only for the tasks that absolutely cannot be automated. If there is a way for any duty to be performed without you depending on an unmotivated worker to deliver it – seize that opportunity and implement that automation.

Before you start

Could you be bothered to leave the name of a project manager you find admirable in the comments section? Without googling, I can think of hardly two names that I would like to mention. One of them is definitely the late Steve Jobs that we have mentioned already, and the other project manager that I find has to mentioned is John Wallace.

John was the project manager responsible for the construction of the Panama Canal, and at that moment, there was only one person in the US who received a paycheck larger than John did at the end of the month. And that was President Theodore Roosevelt.

So, yes, it is no secret that project managers receive no credit while they handle all the work. And it is our unflattering responsibility to locate and address all the deadlocks and challenges of our business, but the one thing you should never doubt is our importance. We’re the ones who make things move.

We’re the showrunners.

author avatar
Goran Bogunović

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