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How To Build A Remote Team For SEO: Planning & Structure

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How To Build A Remote Team For SEO: Planning & Structure

As the first pandemic lockdowns went into effect, many companies scrambled to find a way to make remote working possible.

When lockdowns lifted, a lot of these companies decided that the way of “office-first” working patterns was no longer necessary, especially in the digital marketing industry.

Agency owners realized the cost savings in giving up their offices.

Employees discovered the freedom of a one-minute commute to their desks.

Remote work is here to stay.

Your team may have recently moved to become fully remote, or you are hiring your first of many remote SEO pros.

Either way, you’ll need to make many considerations for it to be a well-functioning team.

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This is the first part of a series of articles about how to build a fully remote team for SEO and in this first step, we’re going to talk about planning and structure to set the foundation for your success.

How Your SEO Team Is Structured

Your team’s structure will make a difference in your success in setting up a remote team.

For instance, there will be different considerations for remote SEO teams in one country versus teams spread out across time zones.

Not all remote teams became remote in the same way.

Because of this, the individuals on those teams may have different expectations and experiences of remote working.

When building or scaling a fully remote SEO team, this is important to remember.

Types Of Remote Teams

Remote teams function in different ways, each with benefits and challenges.

National vs. International

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A remote team with employees all in one country (or if in the U.S., in just one state) will be easier to administrate.

There will be one set of tax laws, one set of employment laws, and one set of public holidays.

There are fewer administrative hurdles for a manager of an SEO team operating in one location, albeit remotely.

Managers of international teams will need to remember that there can be significant differences in how you treat employees depending on the country they reside.

Meet-up Space vs. No Meet-up Space

When creating or growing your SEO team, you may offer your employees access to a physical location that they can choose to attend for meetings and in-person collaboration.

Some companies have retained small office space despite going fully remote just for this purpose.

Others choose to give their team membership or allowances for co-working spaces.

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By giving your team members this option, you allow them to choose to hold a face-to-face meeting or remain remote.

It also enables them to get out of the house and sit among people (without the latte bill of visiting a café).

However, offering this sort of arrangement can go against the fully remote-first culture of a company.

If not properly monitored, you may find team members agreeing to meet up every week at a convenient co-working space.

While this is not a problem, if it starts to become expected that team members meet together regularly, it is considered a hybrid model.

Again, this is not an issue if your team is expecting it. However, it can add undue pressure and remove the benefits of remote working for some workers if it’s not truly remote-first.

How the Company Is Set Up

How the rest of your company approaches remote work will also impact how to manage your remote-first team.

Hybrid Companies

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If the SEO team is fully remote but operates within a larger organization that isn’t, you may see your team pressured to visit the office more often than they would like.

This is particularly the case in hybrid organizations that offer an office and a remote-based contract.

Even if every team member is on a remote-first contract, they may be asked to join other department meetings in the office.

This can be particularly stressful for employees to navigate, and managers may need to help set boundaries with their participation in those face-to-face meetings.

You may find yourself as one of the few managers within the company who leads a fully-remote team.

That can be a great learning curve and allow you to help set parameters and guidelines, but it also can be a struggle.

Remote Companies

Fully remote companies will likely be better equipped to handle the challenges of remote-first working.

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When all of your staff are working remotely, a company needs to get good at handling video-call fatigue, async working, and team-building quickly.

As a manager of an SEO team that sits within a fully-remote organization, there will likely be a lot of support for you in running your team well in that environment.

Considerations For Reward

How you pay your team, the benefits, and the remuneration rules will differ greatly by location.

Having a team that is spread across states or countries means there may be some work and research to consider the best pay structure.

Compensation

How much you pay your remote team is not as straightforward a decision as for a team that is all based in one location. There are several factors to consider that can complicate payment structures.

The main complication is that the wages you pay in one country for an SEO manager will be different compared to another.

This can be down to average wages differing.

The scarcity of skills in some countries drives SEO salaries up. Even unfair perceptions of SEO talent from one country being better than others.

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This can all culminate in candidates from different countries having wildly differing salary expectations for the same role.

Pricing Models

There are two main schools of thought on identifying how to pay staff across different locations.

  • Pay all staff the same amount, converted into their currency, regardless of where in the world they are working from (location-agnostic pay).
  • Pay staff their country’s market rate for their role (location-based pay).

Both methods have pros and cons, and ultimately, this will be a business decision.

As a fully-remote SEO team line manager, you may not have much say in this.

However, knowing the benefits and pitfalls is good as you will likely be the first person your team member approaches to talk about it.

Location-based Pay

Location-based pay can give employees who live in high cost of living areas the much-needed additional salary to be comfortable in those areas.

It can also mean that hiring out of some countries is more economical for employers, increasing the attractiveness of candidates from these locations.

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However, paying employees vastly different amounts for the same job can lead to resentment.

It can also feed into the cycle of poor wages for some countries rather than helping to increase wages.

Location-Agnostic Pay

Paying staff the same amount for the same roles regardless of where they live can help bring more equality to pay across the world.

However, it can also mean that employees have vastly different experiences of trying to live comfortably on those wages.

For example, the salary for a U.K. SEO professional of £45,000 would pay for a very different size of accommodation in London city-center compared to the countryside in the North of England.

It could be the difference between renting a room in a house share versus owning a house.

This can be considerably starker when looking at the cost of living in different countries.

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Conversations About Pay

Be aware in geographies where it is perfectly legal to do so, staff may talk about their salaries with each other.

Be ready to explain your salary structure to your team regardless of your route.

It may be better to have these conversations with your team when you hire them, rather than waiting for them to get upset that they have a worse salary package/standard of living than their colleagues doing the same job.

Benefits

Beyond base salary, you’ll need to consider benefits for your remote SEO team.

Again, this might not be as simple as offering every employee the same benefit.

There may be differences based on local laws and taxes.

Remote-work Centric

You can tailor the benefits you offer to the unique needs of remote workers.

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Think of what your team may be lacking due to not coming into a shared office space regularly.

The lure of free coffee and a pool table has never really been enough to tempt SEO experts into the office, but there will be some things remote workers miss out on.

Consider social, community, or health benefits that might be even more important for team members working remotely.

For example:

  • Membership in co-working spaces.
  • Social club/activity membership.
  • Gym membership.
  • Volunteering days.
  • Weekly takeaway/grocery-shop budgets.

Equipment

Just providing your team with a laptop may not be enough for them to thrive working from home.

You may also want to provide a stipend for setting up a home office in a comfortable, ergonomic way.

They will know what suits them the most for their home environment.

For example, being able to buy a room divider to section off the area of their room with their desk and work equipment may do wonders for their work/life balance.

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Providing them with enough money to purchase a suitable desk, a second monitor, and a separate keyboard may be an essential benefit.

As SEO professionals, we spend our lives online.

To do a good job, we need a stable internet connection.

This is something you should speak to your team about when hiring them.

It might not be something that occurs to a first-time work-from-home colleague.

Differ By Location

A critical consideration is the differences in how benefits are treated legally and for tax purposes across locations.

For example, there are rules around employers providing workplace pensions in the U.K.

To offer a pension is not a benefit unless the employer’s contribution is more than what is legally mandated.

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This financial minimum may be different in other countries.

How these benefits are taxed will change dependent on location too.

What may seem like a perk for an employee in one country may be a huge tax burden to another elsewhere in the world.

Seek advice from experts in international hiring and remuneration if your company is building a fully remote team across geographies with different laws for the first time.

Necessary Benefits

There are some locations where benefits are more of a necessity than others.

For example, a benefit of private healthcare in the UK is often seen as exactly that, a benefit.

Citizens of the UK have access to free healthcare that the government provides.

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A health insurance plan can help access private healthcare, but not offering it will not prevent them from receiving healthcare.

Like the US, the importance of a good healthcare plan is far greater to employees in other countries.

When considering what benefits to offer your fully-remote SEO team, it is unlikely one-size-fits-all will work across geographies.

In my next column, we’ll continue this series with a deep dive into the legal considerations in setting up your remote SEO team, plus communication and collaboration tips to help you succeed.

More resources:


Featured Image: Josep Suria/Shutterstock

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

Pillar pages are high-level introductions to a topic. They then link to other pages, which are usually more detailed guides about parts of the main topic.

Altogether, they form a content hub.

Example of a content hub

But not all pillar pages look the same. 

In this guide, we’ll look at eight examples of pillar pages to get your creative juices flowing.

Excerpt of beginner's guide to SEO by Ahrefs

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 1,200
Backlinks: 6,900
Referring domains: 899

Overview of Ahrefs' beginner's guide to SEO in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is our very own pillar page, covering the broad topic of search engine optimization (SEO)

Why I like it

Besides the fact that I’m biased, I like the custom design we created for this page, which makes it different from the articles on our blog. 

Even though the design is custom, our pillar page is still a pretty classic “hub and spoke” style pillar page. We’ve broken the topic down neatly into six different chapters and internally linked to guides we’ve created about them. There are also custom animations when you hover over each chapter:

Examples of chapters in the SEO guide

We’ve also added a glossary section that comes with a custom illustration of the SERPs. We have explanations of what each element means, with internal links to more detailed content:

Custom illustration of the SERP

Finally, it links to another “pillar page”: our SEO glossary

Takeaway

Consider creating a custom design for your pillar page so that it stands out. 

Excerpt of Doctor Diet's ketogenic diet guide

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 92,200
Backlinks: 21,600
Referring domains: 1,700

Overview of Diet Doctor's ketogenic diet guide in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Diet Doctor is a health company focusing on low-carb diets. Its pillar page is a comprehensive guide on the keto diet. 

Why I like it

On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a pillar page; it looks like every other post on the Diet Doctor site. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s simply a different approach—you don’t have to call out the fact that it’s a pillar page. 

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Diet Doctor’s guide is split into 10 different sections with links to its own resources. The links bring you to different types of content (not just blog posts but videos too).

Video course about keto diet for beginners

Unlike the classic pillar page, Diet Doctor’s guide goes into enough detail for anyone who is casually researching the keto diet. But it also links to further resources for anyone who’s interested in doing additional research.

Takeaway

Pillar pages need not always just be text and links. Make it multimedia: You can add videos and images and even link to your own multimedia resources (e.g., a video course).

Excerpt of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 5,600
Backlinks: 2,800
Referring domains: 247

Overview of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Wine Folly is a content site devoted to wine knowledge and appreciation. Its pillar page, as expected, is about wine. 

Why I like it

Wine Folly’s pillar page is a classic example of a “hub and spoke” style pillar page—split into multiple sections, with some supporting text, and then internal links to other resources that support each subsection. 

Supporting text and links to other resources

This page doesn’t just serve as a pillar page for ranking purposes, though. Given that it ranks well and receives quite a significant amount of search traffic, the page also has a call to action (CTA) to Wine Folly’s book:

Short description of book; below that, CTA encouraging site visitor to purchase it

Takeaway

While most websites design pillar pages for ranking, you can also use them for other purposes: capture email addresses, sell a book, pitch your product, etc. 

Excerpt of A-Z directory of yoga poses

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 11,100
Backlinks: 3,400
Referring domains: 457

Overview of Yoga Journal's A-Z directory of yoga poses in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Yoga Journal is an online and offline magazine. Its pillar page is an A-Z directory of yoga poses.

Why I like it

Yoga Journal’s pillar page is straightforward and simple. List down all possible yoga poses (in both their English and Sanskrit names) in a table form and link to them. 

List of yoga poses in table form

Since it’s listed in alphabetical order, it’s useful for anyone who knows the name of a particular pose and is interested in learning more. 

What I also like is that Yoga Journal has added an extra column on the type of pose each yoga pose belongs to. If we click on any of the pose types, we’re directed to a category page where you can find similar kinds of poses: 

Examples of standing yoga poses (in grid format)

Takeaway

The A-Z format can be a good format for your pillar page if the broad topic you’re targeting fits the style (e.g., dance moves, freestyle football tricks, etc.).

Excerpt of Atlassian's guide to agile development

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 115,200
Backlinks: 3,200
Referring domains: 860

Overview of Atlassian's guide to agile development in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Atlassian is a software company. You’ve probably heard of its products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc. Its pillar page is on agile development.

Why I like it

Atlassian’s pillar page is split into different topics related to agile development. It then has internal links to each topic—both as a sticky table of contents and card-style widgets after the introduction: 

Sticky table of contents
Card-style widgets

I also like the “Up next” feature at the bottom of the pillar page, which makes it seem like an online book rather than a page. 

Example of "Up next" feature

Takeaway

Consider adding a table of contents to your pillar page. 

Excerpt of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 114,400
Backlinks: 2,900
Referring domains: 592

Overview of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Muscle and Strength’s pillar page is a massive database linking to various categories of workouts. 

Why I like it

Calling it a pillar page seems to be an understatement. Muscle and Strength’s free workouts page appears to be more like a website. 

When you open the page, you’ll see that it’s neatly split into multiple categories, such as “workouts for men,” “workouts for women,” “biceps,” “abs,” etc. 

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Workout categories (in grid format)

Clicking through to any of them leads us to a category page containing all sorts of workouts:

Types of workouts for men (in grid format)

Compared to the other pillar pages on this list, where they’re linking to other subpages, Muscle and Strength’s pillar page links to other category pages, which then link to their subpages, i.e., its massive archive of free workouts.

Takeaway

Content databases, such as the one above, are a huge undertaking for a pillar page but can be worth it if the broad topic you’re targeting fits a format like this. Ideally, the topic should be about something where the content for it is ever-growing (e.g., workout plans, recipes, email templates, etc.).

Excerpt of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 39,100
Backlinks: 1,100
Referring domains: 308

Overview of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Tofugu is a site about learning Japanese. And its pillar page is about, well, learning Japanese.

Why I like it

This is an incredible (and yes, ridiculously good) guide to learning Japanese from scratch. It covers every stage you’ll go through as a complete beginner—from knowing no Japanese to having intermediate proficiency in the language. 

Unlike other pillar pages where information is usually scarce and simply links out to further resources, this page holds nothing back. Under each section, there is great detail about what that section is, why it’s important, how it works, and even an estimated time of how long that stage takes to complete. 

Another interesting aspect is how Tofugu has structured its internal links as active CTAs. Rather than “Learn more” or “Read more,” it’s all about encouraging users to do a task and completing that stage. 

CTA encouraging user to head to the next task of learning to read hiragana

Takeaway

Two takeaways here:

  • Pillar pages can be ridiculously comprehensive. It depends on the topic you’re targeting and how competitive it is.
  • CTAs can be more exciting than merely just “Read more.”
Excerpt of Zapier's guide to working remotely

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 890
Backlinks: 4,100
Referring domains: 1,100

Overview of Zapier's guide to working remotely in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Zapier allows users to connect multiple software products together via “zaps.” It’s a 100% remote company, and its pillar page is about remote work. 

Why I like it

Zapier’s pillar page is basically like Wine Folly’s pillar page. Break a topic into subsections, add a couple of links of text, and then add internal links to further resources. 

In the examples above, we’ve seen all sorts of execution for pillar pages. There are those with custom designs and others that are crazily comprehensive.

But sometimes, all a pillar page needs is a simple design with links. 

Takeaway

If you already have a bunch of existing content on your website, you can create a simple pillar page like this to organize your content for your readers. 

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Keep learning

Inspired by these examples and want to create your own pillar page? Learn how to successfully do so with these two guides:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.  



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