SEO Management 101 – what makes for a good SEO Manager?

by on 28th November 2009

What makes for a good SEO Manager?

While researching this post, I found it surprising that there’s a near total lack of content on the subject of SEO Management that I could find.

Awesome, I thought. Here’s to writing in an under-served niche, and hopefully creating a useful blog post.

What makes for a good SEO manager?

Finding decent SEO Managers is no easy task. I’m recruiting SEO Managers in the US and the UK and I’m finding the same challenges exist on both sides of the pond. A candidate, who comes across exceptionally well in a telephone interview may fail when they attend their first face to face interview. Why is that? Being a brilliant SEO doesn’t qualify you to be a brilliant SEO Manager, but this doesn’t mean you can’t learn and develop the management skills you need.

Proven SEO background

While the length of someones experience in the SEO field isn’t particularly critical to qualifying as an SEO manager, their success in the field is. I’d feel uncertain about appointing an SEO manager that couldn’t demonstrate multiple examples of successful SEO campaigns on different domains for different companies. The more campaigns, the better. Why? Whether you’re in-house or part of an agency, your SEO campaign architecture will vary wildly based on external factors such as market competitiveness and internal factors such as organisational buy in, development resource, technology platform and budget. The more campaigns you’ve been responsible for, the wider your experience with each will stretch.

Ability to focus on and manage tasks via an SEO team

Micromanaging is rarely the path to success. Being surrounded by talented people is a good thing, but knowing how to delegate tasks to them is a skill not always easily developed. Keeping a task list of your own is a powerful way to stay on top of things, so as you delegate, create task lists of your own for your individual team members. The aim of the game is to stay on top of your individual team member’s tasks, setting deadlines as each item is assigned. Getting some skills in project management would be a very smart choice, too.

Commercial Search Engine Optimisation strategist

Understanding individual search engine ranking factors and the ability to deploy that knowledge is an important skill, but having an understanding of the commercial ecosystem that you live in is core to developing long term SEO strategy. A commercially aware SEO should be able to show genuine insight into the economics of a website’s revenue model, a strong awareness of the environmental factors that affect that revenue model and an in-depth view of the competitive landscape.

An ability to spot strengths and weaknesses in people

Spotting strengths and weaknesses in people is part of good people management. Developing the skills and knowledge inside your team makes the website you’re working on much more competitive, so what’s not to like about a bit of SEO training? A good SEO Manager should be able to recognise the development needs of individuals in their team and should set tasks to give them space to learn the skills they need to grow as SEO consultants.

Great sales person, strong communicator

Part of being a strong SEO manager is having the ability to communicate and present well. In an interview situation, I try to imagine a candidate giving a board level presentation or speaking at a conference. It’s a critical part of the job where being able to translate complex subjects into the meaningful discussion can really help you get ahead. Your speaking, communication and presentation skills can be learned and improved with the right amount of practice and feedback.

Continually refining their own skills

Even the most expert SEO’s work regularly to improve their own skills and knowledge. This point really applies to everyone in the industry, but I believe that, as a Search Manager responsible for the training and development of other SEO’s that a great SEO Manager will be always able to discuss areas they’re currently exploring or passionate about, be it learning about a new tool, following an industry development or mastering a new technique.

An ability to spot talent during the recruitment process

Selecting a new recruit can be an exhausting process. I gave some advice on recruiting SEO’s including tips on running group interviews and traits to watch for. Building an SEO team can be extremely rewarding, but challenging. A great SEO Manager however, can only ever be as good as the people in their team.

In your experience, what makes for a good SEO Manager?


  1. Shame it’s in english ;-) I wish I could share with you another part of SEO management : the KPI from search marketing activity. A bunch of ratio from different tasks costs / benefits.
    Less is sometime more in SEO, aka Linkbuilding !

  2. Good post Richard, my background is in web development and web project management. during the past 2 years my focus has been on SEO but primarily for small companies and my own agency website. I find these type of posts and also your talk at SEO Pro very useful as I am now looking for a SEO contract role and trying to identify how senior I really am? and which role I belong to.

  3. Great post thank you! I think it’s important to get to know your clients before starting a project that points out the “ability to spot strengths and weaknesses in people”. I think it’s clear that a good SEO must have certain communication skills combined with good sales techniques. Otherwise it won’t be easy to convince your clients that they really need your services.

  4. Great post. A person that has the ability to analyze KPI’s for a particular website is a proven asset as well.

  5. Realy a Great post..

  6. Thank you for this eminently useful post. I believe there has to be a cross-pollination between SEO and PR for excellent results.

  7. Thanks for taking time out to post this article, it’s spot on. SEO talent is a solid foundation, but to be truly effective you need to pay attention the the other factors you’ve highlighted, for sure.

    I think it was Warren Buffet who said something along these lines about management – “surround yourself with people of integrity and stay the hell out of the way.” – loved it!

  8. Excellent post, even though I came across it late in the day. You implement common management skills to the SEO practice very well as just knowing SEO is not enough to manage a team. I suppose the ‘ability to spot strengths and weaknesses in people’ is the key in knowing what task to delegate to your team members.

    I also believe it is important to know the product you are delivering to clients as a project will be judged based on this.

  9. Terrific post. Finding the right mix of skills for a manager is imperative. Different segments have different needs and different KPI’s. Understanding the analytic’s data, assigning tasks, plus staying current with new changes to the algorithm are all important.

    I would also add that you need to be a good teacher.

    It doesn’t matter if your working with a large company or a number of smaller clients I think its important to teach the basics to them. It makes it much easier if everyone is on the same page when new content is developed. A client that understands the basics makes the whole process much more effective. Knowing what and how much to teach them depends on the client and usually falls on the managers shoulders.

  10. What do you do about the people who enter the database information but who continually either refuse or are not able to – follow the instructions you have given them for entering web copy and keywords?

  11. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it, it was informative and encouraging to read your slant on the subject… I’m on Twitter and would love to keep in touch @digi_guerrilla

  12. I believe that the basis are the deep expertise and ability to communicate with people in your team and hand down them your knowledge and experience. Only in the second row are the ability to plan and organize.

  13. Great post and wondering if you have written on or know of any articles on how to incent an SEO manager. So, one example would be to reward your SEA manager as your company moves up in rankings when searched. Do you know of any programs/frameworks like this we could review? Thank you!

  14. It’s grate post as well as best definition, but business analytic as well as data analytic is the basic theme for Good SEO Manager…

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