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SEO: Conducting Cross-Functional Projects

Search engine optimization often requires the planning and implementation of cross-functional teams. For example, what appears to be a simple request to change header navigation can result in a lot of work from multiple departments – creativity, user experience, operations, and information technology – with the approvals of executives in the process of road.

The way you manage these experts will likely determine the success of a project. Get inspired from successful project managers.

Identify the purpose

The first step is to describe the challenge you are trying to overcome.

Identify the goals and objectives of SEO. Specify the high-level conditions that must be met, such as ensuring that navigation in the header is explorable and indexable. Include current performance numbers and other relevant information, such as algorithm updates and patterns of search engine behavior.

Look for evidence cases, such as headers from other ecommerce sites that show the items you want to implement. Or provide examples of sites that have not done what you are offering and who have suffered in the search engine rankings because of this.

Training the team

Assemble the team to advance the project. Some members of the team will be supportive, and some may be obstacles. Look for supporters to convert blockers.

For example, the user experience staff is usually helpful with SEO projects because they represent the transition between function and form. In a redesign of the header, they will also be concerned with the flips and nesting (development) that they will do with the aesthetic (design).

Identify the layers of approval required for the project and get the buy-in down to ensure its priority. Focusing on return on investment is usually the fastest way to prioritize in my experience.

Establishing a road map

With this team, develop the requirements of the ideal result. Hold a working session to discuss how the ideal outcome could be achieved, or how it could be modified to fit the current environment.

Take detailed notes. Write the requirements according to the decisions of all members of the team. Then send the requirements to the team for final approval.

Create a timeline of the tasks that must take place. Note the main milestones and the work of each player to get to this point. Identify the dependencies where the product of a step informs the work of the next step, as well as the cases where the tasks can run in parallel.

For example, UX may be able to test which subcategories belong to which parents while designers sketch out layouts. But the two paths will have to join for the next step: to produce templates of headers.


Hold weekly status meetings that focus on current and future actions. Create a calendar for the meeting to have a direction.

Ask the owner of each action to give an update. This allows team members to ask questions and think about next steps.

At the end of each meeting, repeat the following steps – with the owners and the due dates. It could be uncomfortable but do it anyway. Without this public responsibility and the reiteration of everyone's commitments, the project will lose momentum.

Hold yourself responsible in the same way. You have actions and milestones of your choice. Behave as you do others. Otherwise, you will lose the respect of the team, and the project will flounder.

Send a meeting recap afterwards. Start with the next steps, with the owners and the expiry dates. Follow the "next steps" section with the notes of the discussion to confirm what has been agreed. These notes will be useful during the project. They give team members something that they can refer to when they are not sure of the location of the project.

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