Passing The Torch as an SEO Manager

As an SEO manager, your knowledge is specific and likely touches multiple departments across your organization. When the time comes that you decide to leave your company, your manager will be scrambling to fill your shoes. Give your manager a break by making it a little easier to hire your replacement.

Even if you never meet your successor, providing the following information and documentation will help make for a smooth transition of duties. As a bonus, you’ll find that by examining these action items, some core responsibilities and duties of an engaged SEO manager are spotlighted.

Competitive Research

There’s no reason your successor should have to start from scratch on competitive and market research. As SEO manager, you should have extensive working knowledge of your site’s competitive landscape. Pass along a list of the key players in your market and some basic information about each site (in no particular order):

  • Site age.
  • Number of inbound links.
  • PageRank.
  • Number of pages indexed.
  • Social media properties.

Finally, provide a brief overview of each site’s strengths and weaknesses. Give your successor your honest, professional opinion of how these sites stack up to yours.

Past Initiatives

Make sure your “SEO Journal” or list of past roll-outs is intuitive and available to your successor. You should have a running log of all SEO-related releases and updates. This “journal” tells a story of your past efforts.

For some time after your gone, your successor may see an impact on traffic or leads stemming from changes you made prior to your departure. The new SEO manager’s ability to trace those results back to a specific update will be extremely helpful. If your organization uses an issue tracking system, don’t forget to include the issue ID or ticket number associated with each update.

Reporting Documentation

Unfamiliarity with a specific analytics tool often isn’t a deal-breaker for a new hire. Some people are experts with Google Analytics but have never touched Omniture or WebTrends. However, you can shorten the learning curve by being specific in your reporting documentation.

The next time you run your weekly report, go through and write out each step you take, down to each click. No detail is too small here. Use spatial instructions where necessary, telling the reader things like “click on ‘Visits’ at the top of the left-hand menu.” Don’t be afraid to make the instructions seem overly rudimentary. This may be old-hat to you, but plan for a person who is probably coming in cold.

Also, make sure your repository of past reports is well-organized and your naming conventions intuitive.

Finally, make sure you document how often reports should be run, what time period they should encompass, on what days they should be delivered, and provide the e-mailing list of all the people who normally receive them. Remember, it’s possible that these reports may have to be run by someone completely unfamiliar with the process until your replacement is found.

Future Goals, Projects and Road Maps

Now that we’ve accounted for initiatives you’ve released in the past and reporting the present state of the site, we need to make sure your replacement knows what you had planned for the future. Ideally, you and your department have already worked out your goals for the current or upcoming year and the methods your team plans to use to reach them.

Before you leave, make sure that all of these initiatives are thoroughly documented. Being as detailed as possible, try to answer the following questions in your document:

  • What is the update/project?
  • What problem does each initiative aim to solve or how will each initiative help you to reach your goals?
  • What is the business case for each initiative?
  • What suggestions for implementation and links to resources can you provide?
  • How should these be prioritized?

The knowledge you’ve accumulated during your tenure with your soon-to-be former company is extremely valuable. The willingness and ability to effectively transfer that knowledge to your successor showcases your professionalism and will leave a great impression on the team you leave behind.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York from March 22-26, 2010. Approximately 5,000 marketers and search engine optimization professionals attend SES New York each year to network and learn about topics such as PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more. SES New York will be packed with 70+ sessions, multiple keynotes, 100+ exhibitors, networking events and parties. Your customers, colleagues and competition will be in attendance — will you?

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