An ecommerce company’s search-engine-optimization pro will eventually leave. Here’s what to do next.
First, ask her why. Make it clear that you want her feedback to make the program stronger. Is she feeling overworked, underpaid, or unappreciated? Perhaps there’s no room for growth, or she’s unable to make progress due to organizational obstacles? As hard as it may be, listen closely. Learn what you can do to improve the SEO program’s direction, staffing, and support.
Replacing an SEO Pro
Write the job description. Ask your departing SEO to draft a job description or list of responsibilities. No one knows the role better.
Find a replacement. The hiring market is hot for SEOs. Give yourself as much time as possible to find a replacement, regardless of the level you’re hiring at. The market is flooded with (i) companies looking for employees with basic, analyst skills to do as much as they can and learn along the way, and (ii) agencies seeking entry-level SEO candidates to be trained in that agency’s methodology.
SEO managers and directors have much more expertise. While there are fewer openings for those roles, you’ll still need a competitive offer to attract expertise.
Rethink your SEO support model. When your team changes, it’s a good time to consider SEO staffing options. Is it a team of one? Even the most seasoned SEO professionals desire a colleague to talk strategy and ideas. Consider a two-person team, or an SEO employee and an agency contract.
Agencies aren’t for every company, though. If you’re working with an agency and your SEO employee is primarily a project manager, consider bringing the work in-house with a team.
I’ve addressed working with agencies at “For SEO, Better to Hire an Agency or an Employee?” and “11 Essential Tasks of an SEO Agency.”
Secure the SEO strategy and roadmap. Your departing SEO pro likely has a strategy and roadmap. Make sure you have both, along with a description of each item, before she leaves. Without that starting point, the replacement will likely have to start from scratch without the benefit of history.
Understand the processes and contacts. Your departing SEO pro will have forged processes such as meetings with editorial or developer staff, and monthly reporting. Get the details of each daily, weekly, and monthly process, including the names of all people involved. Ask for templates and other tools she uses. All of this will help your new SEO hire.
Educate on projects. A certain degree of SEO history is disappearing with your departing pro. Ask her to explain the current projects — who is involved and the goals and obstacles. You can decide whether to pause these projects or keep them running until you bring in a replacement.
Also, ask the departing SEO pro to brief you on the past critical projects that have gone live. Are there written requirements or other documentation that the new SEO team needs to be aware of?
Ask her to relay major SEO events such as changes in natural search performance, including the causes and the fixes.
Ensure access to SEO tools. Before leaving, she must add the owner or a senior employee as an admin on both the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts for every subdomain and domain. Otherwise, if the accounts are tied to her personal email address, you will lose access to them once she leaves. It’s much more difficult to re-verify these accounts from scratch than it is to have a current admin add you to the account (as an admin).
Likewise, make sure you have access to other tools, such as enterprise SEO platforms (BrightEdge, Searchmetrics, seoClarity), purpose-built tools (Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz), project management tools (Jira, Trello) and any templates or trackers that live on Google platforms (Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Data Studio). Have her make a list of every tool with its login name and the password.
If your departing SEO uses her email for these tools, create a generic email address for the company and ask her to change the owner’s email to that address.
Collect files. On her last day, ask your departing SEO pro upload all of files and templates to a thumb drive or service like Dropbox for safe keeping. Store a copy on your computer, as well. Your new SEO pro will need these files.
Change passwords. After your SEO pro departs, change the passwords in all tools on her list. Some have quotas or rules against multiple-party usage. Better safe than sorry, even if you trust your departing SEO implicitly.