Dealing with change is always a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it depends if you asked for it, on the other hand, it depends on your resistance to it.
As we navigate the uncertainty currently produced by a pandemic, we find ourselves rapidly changing our daily life, our work routines and our jobs, without having asked for it.
So we need to adapt and keep our spirits high, as we try to stay productive and mitigate personal and professional stress. Especially in a remote context. For SEO agency teams that means adapting specific creative workflows, cross-functional teams and a fast-paced environment to a streamlined online process, while focusing on client retention and short-term tactics for business resilience.
There’s a lot to handle and issues are bound to appear, as we deal with stress, anxiety and a different way of communicating. That’s why we thought about gathering the main ones in here and see what agencies can do to overcome such challenges.
Online communication can be overwhelming & you need to keep your team informed and aligned.
Your team comes first. After probably accommodating them and making sure they have the right resources, you now have to iterate fast on:
Organizing your workflows and having rules for communicating in your team and across teams
Do you need more synchronous or asynchronous communication? What are the preferred channels for each? What are your expectations for your team, your manager etc., according to the situation?
Maybe there are some lessons to be learned from two-three weeks already of fully remote work for your SEO agencies. What we observed so far:
- Set goals and communicate them every day. You can define 2 or 3 important questions that your teams answers before your meetings, to highlight their priorities for the day.
Clearly communicating our expectations each day made work easier for everyone in the team. That’s why 3 daily video “stand-ups” were the rule so that each team member knew what was going on and what the priorities are. Video helps with non-verbal communications, so you can take the “pulse” of the team.
- Having rules for giving feedback on creative work. As this can work both in sync and async, it’s important to highlight what you need to get out of the feedback process (is it about clarifying ideas, is it about style, is it written feedback you need etc.).
- Also, having ruler for online brainstorming: it can be async, as each person generates ideas on their own and then you debate them in a call or it can be in sync, using online drawing boards and specific tools. Think about the usual style of your team and how you can adapt that for remote work.
- Using independent e-mail threads for each issue. Or even using threads in Slack channels (or your preferred chat tool) in order to give specific input on an issue. It’s easier to keep things organized and know what and where to search for information or reply.
- Setting alerts and specific notifications when you need to be constantly updated on a topic. For instance, our Signals cards with top insights on the status of your SEO campaign can be easily shared via email and assigned to a specific team member or even with the client.
- Another tiny habit that can reshape your agenda and help with your organizing is to think of a task as if the ownership doesn’t change when that task is handed off. That way you know when to follow-up and who to reach out to make sure the task is done.
Organizing your breaks & times for checking comms channels
The rules of engagement function both in terms of keeping everything tidy, but also for teams to know when the best times for communication are:
- Organize your day to include time for deep work (thinking fast, strategizing, creating content, new keywords research etc.) and time for checking your email and chats. You can use the Pomodoro technique or apps that segment time and give you reminders when it’s time for a break.
- The 2-minute rule: if it takes 2 minutes or less to reply to a certain thread, do it. If you need to take your time before answering, take that time and answer in a later slot allocated for emails and other discussions. This also helps with prioritizing urgent issues.
- If it helps to structure your day in your calendar app and highlighting breaks, do it. You can put your meals at a set time, thus making sure you actually eat and take care of your health. For instance, you can set a “Lunch” meeting in everyone’s calendar and accommodate an extra 15 to 30 minutes for preparation. Furthermore, you can share a virtual lunch with a colleague or two, making it an opportunity for social interaction, since you all have them in your calendars.
It’s a challenge to keep the clients in the loop:
This is a constant challenge, but even more so in times of crisis when overcommunicating becomes the norm. Things change from day to day, so you need to keep your clients in the loop while they keep you up to date with their own business changes:
- During the first months of upheaval, it’s important to set up daily status calls, to keep adjusting the short-term SEO strategies and proactively be there for your clients. As retention is vital now, so is communicating your insights and results.
- Apart from proactive engagement, think about weekly reporting or shorter periods of reporting for a while, as too many things can change in a month. Show your SEO value, share small wins with your clients and let them know all that is happening - good and bad.
- Dashboards and shared insights can also work for transparency and real-time reactions now. But it’s also important to explain each set of data, so set up calls for that purpose as well. Maybe your clients need the SEO data to adjust more complex internal reports or to further present to their teams. Be their partner on this journey.
- Be flexible and show understanding for your clients. Besides overcommunicating, you can also offer specific solutions adapted for this context and do consultancy work for their business. SEO agencies that weathered the 2008 financial crisis underline the importance of adapting to the clients’ budget and unique needs as a form of long-term retention.
You find it hard to keep the team’s morale high during these times:
Motivation and team morale are crucial now, as stress levels can be high. Routines, healthy habits and constant communication can do the trick for making teams feel more secure and engaged:
- Apart from daily and weekly overviews, 1-on-1 meetings are a space for sharing concerns, creating a sense of belonging and maintaining the “feel” of the company culture. They’re also good for planning ahead and prioritizing.
- Encourage rituals to focus on the productivity of each person in the team, as much as possible. Don’t forget to use emojis to show nuances and specific meanings, as online communication doesn’t have too many non-verbal cues.
- Create a space for celebrating small wins & acknowledging good work to keep the virtual spirits high.
- Encourage informal interactions and reaching out - it may be on a special channel, it may be on different days and hours. Don’t forget about virtual Hangouts for connecting and virtual beer & wine on Fridays, for instance.
- You can try a buddies system as well, as team members may want to have someone to share accountability on both professional and personal interests.
- Create rules for communicating within your team and across the organization. Don’t be afraid to overcommunicate at this time. Have daily video calls and help every one keep productive.
- Create rules for creative work, be it feedback, design sprints, online brainstorming etc.
- Keep your clients informed with daily calls, regular reports, and insights emails. Be their strategic partner and help them find new ways to position their business.
- Encourage rituals and keep your organizational culture while remote. Do virtual beer o’clocks, do 1-on-1s, make sure social interaction is still present and people have a shared safe space.
If you find yourself with more time on your hands and energy to spend, you can think about the “backlog” you always wanted to get to, but somehow never managed to. That can also give you a sense of motivation and accomplishment, while helping your team or your business.
There’s so many things your SEO agency team needs to keep track on right now and adapt to an even faster paced workflow, as your clients also need you to show up fast.
As issues may appear, it’s good to have a way to spot them really quick and share them with the responsible persons. Signals, our mobile app that pulls top daily insights from SEOmonitor, can also help you with that. Whether rank changes, competitors insights, cannibalization issues etc., you can keep yor threads organized and easily save and share them. It’s also a way to save time and collaborate, no matter where you are.