Search engine optimization (SEO) involves a multitude of tasks, and a diverse range of skills. You’ll need technical expertise to handle backend changes to your site, creativity to come up with new content ideas, analytic skills to gauge how you’re doing, and even people skills to communicate with clients and publishers.
That’s why most SEO agencies and companies doing SEO in-house have an entire team of people working together; each person can specialize in one niche skill, so nobody is burdened with the task of becoming an SEO Swiss army knife.
But there’s a downside to this approach. If you aren’t careful, all those discrete units will function as discrete units, rather than a single, coordinated whole. This is a problem because to be successful, you need all your specialist team members on the same page, understanding your high-level strategy, and being intimately familiar with your brand.
The Communication Problems
Ultimately, the discrepancies here are rooted in communication problems. These issues can have an isolating effect on your team:
- Overcommunication. If it takes three meetings and four email threads to get your team up to speed on a handful of points, you have an overcommunication problem. Essentially, you’re spending too much time in communication, and not enough time doing things.
- Undercommunication. Of course, you might have the opposite problem. If you make a change to your campaign but fail to send an update to the rest of your team, they may be in the dark about new tactics or procedures.
- Redundancy. How often do you find your team members repeating the same messages, or overlapping each other? Redundancy can help ensure a message is heard, but too much redundancy wastes the time of every member of the conversation.
- Inefficient messages. Writing a paragraphs-long, poorly organized email takes a 30-second message and turns it into a 30-minute one—for both the writer and the reader(s).
Toward Better Rules
So what can you do to create and enforce better communication standards in your SEO team?
- Measure. It’s hard to definitively diagnose a communication problem unless you have objective data confirming it’s there, so your first job is to measure how your team is communicating to confirm your suspicions (and hopefully point your change in the right direction). Using a tool like Email Analytics, you can gauge how your employees are emailing each other, dissecting the average length and value of each conversation thread and pinpointing problem areas. If you’re using a chat app like Slack, you can also dig into your chat history and see how your team members are relaying information to each other.
- Build the right environment. If you work in an office, try using a semi-open workspace so people feel encouraged to speak with one another, but not so encouraged that it results in increased distractions. You also need to set the tone that communication is key for your team to work efficiently; make it obvious that this is an area that requires work to perfect. You can use various Gmail plugins to help boost productivity if your team uses Gmail or G Suite.
- Set the standard with leadership. Communication habits tend to trickle down. If you want all your team members to start communicating more concisely and precisely, you’ll need your team leader to do it first. If that’s you, start paying closer attention to all your outgoing communication, including emails, chat sessions, and phone calls. Engage in the practices you want your employees to follow.
- Document your workflows and hierarchies. It takes more than the power of suggestion to get your team members communicating the same way. Spend some time documenting your new standards for communication, such as which of your team members report to whom, and how tasks are supposed to be assigned and executed within that hierarchy. It should clear up loose ends and provide a go-to resource for answering ambiguities.
- Point out effective and non-effective emails. Emails are a good place to start cleaning up communication, since they’re self-documenting and easy to track. When you see a well-written or well-organized email, call it out publicly and point out what you like about it. Conversely, when you see a poorly written email, or one that contradicts the best practices you’ve laid out, pull the person who wrote it aside and help coach them individually to improve. For chronic offenders, you may need to come up with a plan for long-term development.
- Keep tweaking. You can’t train a team to become communication rock stars in the span of a few weeks. It takes investment and refinement, from everyone on the team, to create the communication infrastructure necessary to thrive.
Once your SEO team falls in line with better communication, you’ll notice a substantial improvement in your overall efficiency—and, quite possibly, your results. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start making changes for the better.