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.
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.
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.
Remote teams function in different ways, each with benefits and challenges.
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.
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.
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 rest of your company approaches remote work will also impact how to manage your remote-first team.
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.
Fully remote companies will likely be better equipped to handle the challenges of remote-first working.
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.
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.
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.
This can all culminate in candidates from different countries having wildly differing salary expectations for the same role.
There are two main schools of thought on identifying how to pay staff across different locations.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can tailor the benefits you offer to the unique needs of remote workers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.