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Leading an SEO team is not an easy task, whether it’s an in-house or an agency one. Moreover, tracking and measuring results is a critical part of any SEO campaign. You need to make sure that your work provides the results.
In this article, you’ll learn how to effectively guide your SEO team and assess their performance from nine outstanding experts in this niche.
People we’ve asked
1. Julian Redlich @JulianRedlich
Product Manager (SEO) at Booking.com. Leading the product vision and development efforts for all of our over >100M landing pages for all demand channels (paid/organic) with a team of developers, designers, and copywriters.
2. Braden Becker @BradenBecker
Senior SEO Strategist at HubSpot. Writer, editor, marketer, photographer, athlete, environmentalist, and SEO strategist.
3. Vytautas Palovis @VytautasPalovis
SEO & International Growth Lead | Oberlo at Shopify. An experienced ‘T-shaped’ digital marketer with strong skills across a broad range of Digital disciplines such as SEO, Web Analytics, A/B & MVT testing, PPC campaigns, content marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing.
4. Chris Makara @ChrisMakara
Senior Digital Marketing Analyst at Insperity. A self-taught SEO expert with more than 15 years of digital marketing experience, who helps business owners reach their goals by building and implementing an effective digital strategy.
5. Marcus Miller @marcusbowlerhat
SEO, PPC & Digital Marketing Consultant and Strategist at Bowler Hat. SEO, PPC & Digital Marketing consultant with over 18 years experience.
6. Rodrigo Stockebrand @spanglishseo
Vice President, Digital Analytics & SEO at Univision Communications Inc. A professional search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/SEM) and digital analytics practitioner, trainer, and consultant with over 15 years of experience in the industry.
7. Artem Melikian
Team Lead of SEO at Netpeak Agency. A professional SEO specialist and digital marketer.
8. Sean Si @SEO_Hacker
CEO and Founder at SEO Hacker. An SEO specialist, Growth Hacker, internet marketer, Copywriter, and blogger.
9. Eren Kozik @ErenKozik
Founder and Head of SEO at SEOPT. He has been in the online industry for over 15 years now. In digital marketing, especially in the field of search engine optimization, he feels particularly at home.
Questions we asked and they answered
1. How do you measure the results of your SEO team and individual members?
At Booking.com, we do not have SEOs in the traditional sense; rather my team consists of Backend Developers, Frontend Developers, Designers, Analysts, and Copywriters. All of them contribute to a collectively designed vision in our agile environment but approach this from a different angle. As a Product Manager, I prioritize the tasks for the team in alignment with business priorities, although this isn’t without input from the team. At Booking.com, we put the customer at the center of everything we do, and all of us are working together to leverage their own special skill sets to accomplish this collective goal.
We use organic traffic to measure our SEO team’s performance, and this extends to multiple properties belonging to our website. However, a variety of factors can drive the results we see, and we go through a process of elimination to diagnose issues and attribute successes. When analyzing a period of low performance, for example, things like seasonality, international traffic, and updates to Google’s ranking algorithm are often the first to be looked at.
Individual employees are rather measured by where they’re spending their time, how they’re thinking about team challenges, and what they’re doing to address them. Everyone here has pretty specific focuses, and this makes it easy to hold ourselves accountable when things go particularly wrong or right.
We have monthly goals, as well as projection for the rest of the year. There are two main KPIs which we track as a team:
- Organic traffic
- Conversions from organic traffic
Also, we have a bunch of individual metrics for each SEO area we work on:
- On-page SEO optimization, we check before/after improvements in terms of organic traffic change.
- For off-page SEO, we do track how many unique referring domains we gained (when it comes to off-page SEO, we create a different type of content – linkable assets, as we call them). We also check how powerful are these links, DA/DR metrics, are these links contextual, did they move the needle and helped that page rank better.
Sometimes it depends on the overall goal of the initiative, but it usually can be done by keeping track of a spreadsheet or looking at results in Ahrefs.
We try to take a more holistic approach to SEO than others do. Which is, we don’t just look at organic rankings for a handful of keywords. We really try and look at various KPIs which are typically customized to the needs of each client. I talk about this in some detail in this post.
We tend to have two sets of primary KPIs:
These are KPIs that show us that our SEO health metrics are all going in the right direction:
- Rank for main converting keywords (local/organic)
- Rank for secondary benchmark keywords (local/organic)
- Majestic Citation Flow
- Majestic Trust Flow
- Majestic Trust & Citation Balance
- Moz Domain Authority
- Moz Page Authority
- Moz Spam Score
Real-world SEO KPIs
We then track what we call real-world KPIs designed to tell us if the improvements in the SEO metrics are tracking to real-world results.
- Increase in organic traffic
- Increase in the number of pages on the site that generate traffic
- Increase in non-branded search traffic
- Percentage increase in organic conversions
- Percentage increase in traffic from specific geographic regions
- Organic Impressions (Search Console)
- Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR) (Search Console)
At Univision, our team’s goals are aligned with business objectives for Digital and we measure results based on macro, micro, and nano SEO metrics. Macro would be things like growth in traffic, conversions, revenue, etc. Micro would be things like improvements to page speed, lower bounce rates/exits, and growth in keywords in the top three. And nano metrics would be the positive movement of each individual page for its core keywords, as well as victories like capturing position “0” or getting premium placement in news, video, or image carousel.
For individual contributors, I measure their results in terms of completion of key action items as well as the contribution that those activities had towards performance growth. And while I do help with the assignments and prioritization of tasks, each team member is encouraged to come up with their own assignments, tasks, and performance KPIs.
The main things that I’m looking to accomplish with this method are:
• Empower everyone to create their own performance and task roadmap – you may know far better than I, what’s important and when it should be done. I want people to have the flexibility and freedom to choose.
• Reward value where it’s due – some of the most important tasks in our department have no impact (at least not directly) on organic search performance. Nonetheless, they are critical in getting other things (that do have a direct impact) moving forward. Therefore, for those individuals that are great at moving these particular pieces, we put less importance on the traffic growth side of performance. In general, I want people to do what they do best and measure them fairly for those tasks, whether they impact performance directly or not. Because in the end, it’s even the stairs to the ship that makes its voyage possible.
Of course, we measure the result of teamwork in the number of growing projects and in the volume of growth based on data from the analytics of organic channels. But there are other metrics important to the team:
- Number of projects (the number of old projects should not decrease, and new projects should come)
- Work with budgets (projects should increase the budget if it’ll be useful)
A very similar process is for individual team members. Each specialist is interested in the growth of his/her project. For juniors, it’s a little more complicated.
Through our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). We have different teams that specialize in the various facets of SEO – content, tech, links, strategizing. Our team’s results are measured by being able to produce a set number that coincides with their monthly quotas. So, that’s the primary way we measure results, but for other select teams, we measure results through rankings since that is what we specialize in. So, if a client does not rank well, that means the team in charge of coming up with strategies/experiments/tasks to make a client rank are not performing well.
Here we use a variety of systems and SEO tools, not only to record project progress and communicate but also to record the results of the team (before / after). As we have no programmers and no need for custom development, we mostly use systems from valued tool providers. Sistrix, Ahrefs, ScreamingFrog, Google Analytics and Google Search Console are the most important tools for us to measure and log the progress and (partial) results of our work. The toolset may change, depending on the requirement and the target.
2. Which CRM systems do you use?
HubSpot uses its very own HubSpot CRM, and we recommend it to others! It’s completely free, forever.
We usually use these two tools:
- Google Search Console
For SEO, I usually use a combination of tools. These are Serpstat, Ahrefs, Google Sheets, Website Auditor, Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, and Reports.io.
We don’t use a dedicated CRM at Bowler Hat and we tend to manage most of our projects within the Asana work management platform. We track leads and sales for Bowler Hat within Asana and we manage all client projects within Asana. Great tool. 🙂
When working with clients we have worked with a huge range of CRM systems – everything from Salesforce and Hubspot to bespoke CRMs.
I’m using Jira as a project management tool with my team, but this isn’t the only tool used across Booking.com.
We have an in-house ERP system in our company, which covers almost the entire work cycle of a specialist. And what it does not cover, we connect with external services.
So, for tasks we use Planfix. We also build communication with the client here (tasks to and from him/her).
To fix SEO metrics (such as positions), we use Serpstat. Its multi-user mode allows us to add and remove specialists when needed. It is convenient to monitor the activity and volume of monitoring. Through the Serpstat API, we pull up information on the positions of customer sites in ERP. Based on this + analytics, we determine the success of the project. In such a way, we can immediately see if a project has any problem and fix it quickly. Well, using the same API, we pull this into the client dashboard. So the client can at any time see the situation on the project, not only the analytics of visits but also the dynamics of the positions.
For CRM, we mainly use Pipedrive and Aweber.
We currently use a combination of different tools:
- MeisterTask for project management
- Todoist for daily task management
- Harvest for time recording
- Slack for digital communication in the team
It has been shown that we are currently riding the best with the combination of these tools.
3. How do your team members provide reports on their results?
Objectives are crucial to reporting and results at Booking.com. As a team, we continuously align on objectives, spending time to regularly discuss how we are delivering against the objectives and whether these are still the most impactful priorities for us to work on. We really do believe that our performance is based on what we deliver, but also how we deliver it. That may include factors like quality, velocity, and resilience. But I think it also encourages an environment where everyone is empowered to bring their ideas to the table to anticipate issues and solve problems. When we do this, we really are showing our best talent and feel more invested in a given project. As a Product Manager, I am not in the line of management of the team and within this structure, we are able to build trust and improve performance across the team because people are encouraged to raise their hands when they have an idea or solution.
We’re a highly transparent team when reporting on performance. Because we’re scoped on monthly traffic targets, we meet regularly to update a single slide deck and share our progress. Depending on an employee’s focus, we also dig into page-level traffic, lead-generation data, and updates to projects that make our SEO strategy more proactive.
One-on-one weekly meetings is a good way to touch a base and see the progress. We also track monthly updates.
This is usually done by pulling reports from Ahrefs and/or Google Analytics.
We use Raventools to provide a report that includes some manual feedback on jobs done and how these benefit the client to the traditional metrics and KPIs relevant to that client. The key point is that we customize this for each and every client.
We generally measure results in terms of the following: Ticket status, task pacing, and performance dashboards (macro/micro/nano) that we configure via APIs to bring in data real-time and with alerts to capture flags/issues as they occur. We also use Ryte.com to monitor site changes which are pivotal in understanding the ongoing evolution of the site. It’s amazing to see the changes that happen to the site daily that would otherwise go undetected.
Our ERP captures the results of work on projects. Team members are good enough to work and monitor the vital signs of projects.
We have a monthly reporting system for all the teams where they input all the tasks that were done for a specific client and we treat that as a progress and client report. It helps us keep track of every team’s progress and it also enables us to know which teams are under-performing. It’s also a good tracker to use to see if our efforts for a specific client are working and it allows to know if our current strategy for the client is really working.
Two to three times a week the project progress is discussed. In the end, it’s all about team performance, because that is the only way we can actually achieve the defined project goals. This only works through a well-rehearsed team that has worked together for several years. Productivity, effectiveness and efficiency increase with team experience.
To be honest, there is a lot of personal conversation going on. That is what binds and welds more together. Granted, from a certain size so certainly not possible.
For me, the personal contact with my employees is currently very important in order to relate to the achievements and results. That way I can do even better the mentoring role that I, as the Head of SEO and CEO, will take on.
4. How do you build an incentive system and determine salary rates for SEOs?
Well, that’s a great question! We offer a very competitive salary in the market, and I’m not talking specifically only about our SEO team, at Shopify as a company, salaries are on a high level, as well as a bunch of perks and benefits on top.
As for promotions in my team, we try to be a results-driven team. But when a team grows, all soft skills also become important – the ability to work in a team, culture fit, eager to learn, take ownership and get shit done – everything becomes important. As a team lead, I try to evaluate all these things and reward my team members when the time comes. Also, it’s very important to set the right expectations to direct reports in the first place. What do you expect from them? What must be achieved in order to get a salary increase or promotion? I must say, sometimes it could be a tough decision to make.
I haven’t really built out an incentive system yet, as I typically pay for hours worked (provided tasks are completed in a reasonable time). As for the rates, it will depend on the level of work needed. For example, if someone is doing an SEO audit, that can take more skill than researching link opportunities.
Client retention throughout the business is our primary metric for the bonus scheme and salary is always based on experience and performance.
We use general market rates for salaries. For incentives, we take into consideration a variety of activities including rank-a-thons and point-based “achievement unlocks.”
The incentive system is built on the results of projects conducted by our team. (Except for projects in which the result is difficult to measure or not measured in specific numeric KPIs).
There is a fixed part and bonus. The last one consists of several subparts:
- Bonus for project management – Usually more than the fixed part
- Bonus for achieving the result – More the bonus for project management
Bonus for project management depends on the project’s budget. Bonus for achieving the result depends on the result itself (the better the result, the bigger the bonus).
The win-win-win strategy: The client receives the result, the specialist – a good reward, the agency – satisfied customers and specialists, and LT.
- Since we have a dedicated sales team, we offer incentives/commissions to them every time they make a sale or close a client. For our regular team members, we don’t really like the idea of overworking and we strongly discourage overtime since a healthy person can do a lot more than someone that has burned themselves out. This is why we have a relatively generous vacation system and we really encourage our team members to take a break once in a while since it’s an important aspect of staying healthy.
- The salary rate in the Philippines is pretty straightforward and we work around or use that amount as a standard/baseline since we never hired SEOs outside of the company. All our SEOs have been internally trained and started out as a normal team member.
I go individually to the wishes of the employees and try to fulfill them if the wishes are not completely beyond the scope. Listen, appreciate and be honest. Especially in our fast-moving time, it is important to take time for the employees.
No one needs a football table to feel comfortable in a company. For example, instead of a foosball table, we have the option of a job bike, which I fully finance as an AG.
Of course, flexible working hours, job tickets and options for HomeOffice days are must-haves, so that employees can spend a little more free time. Amenities that make work more enjoyable, because only a co-worker who feels comfortable and does not have to worry can concentrate fully on the work and perform at their best.
Don’t forget to share your thoughts and tips in the comments section.
Inna Yatsyna is a Brand and Community Development Specialist at Serpstat. She can be found on Twitter .
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