Honest Feedback is More Critical To An SEO Career Than You May Like To Admit.

  • August 22, 2023
  • Nick LeRoy

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This week’s post is for all my people managers!

I spent 10+ years working agency side in my SEO career. I’ve had some amazing people report to me and a few that were a little more difficult to work with than I like to admit.

I found out early on that it’s easy to be a manager when your team members work hard and actively build upon their skills. Not so much when they aren’t.

I considered myself a pretty good people manager, willing and eager to help each individual grow, and would do pretty much anything to see them succeed. I wasn’t afraid to say “atta girl/boy” when good work was being done.  Where I struggled was calling folks out when work wasn’t up to par.

I found out quickly that by not giving quick and honest feedback you’re actually causing more harm than good. Sometimes you have to be the “bad guy” as a people manager — but individuals will grow to be stronger because of it. 


Hypothetical Scenario:

Andrea has tasked Nick with creating an end-of-month performance report. It should articulate KPIs, a performance narrative, and clear action items.

Fast forward 24 hours and Nick forwards a word document with a screenshot from Google Analytics.


Example of Non-Effective SEO Feedback.

This deliverable was OK, I’ve made some changes and sent it to the client. You try to recreate it this way for the future. I know you’ll get this soon!

How Nick interpreted this: 

This deliverable was OK but Andrea prefers to have it done her way and this can be incorporated into next months report.


Example of Effective SEO Feedback.

This deliverable didn’t meet my expectations. It’s clear you found the KPIs within GA but to someone who may not be as technical as you, what should they think when they see this? A few lines sharing the performance of the site will help immensely. I also don’t see any recommendations as to how the client can take action on their SEO campaign based on what is found here.


Please take a look at this again and let me know if you have any questions. 

How Nick interpreted this: 

I cannot continue to produce this level of deliverable. By learning and adding these new components, it will not only meet Andrea’s expectations but it will provide much more actionable info for our client. Andrea is also available for questions if I continue to struggle.

Feedback Differences

Notice the key difference between the two interactions.  The top interaction is grounded on being nice and attempting to provide feedback in a positive way. Unfortunately, the feedback is unclear and won’t likely result in significant changes that are needed for future deliverables.

The second set of feedback is more direct but clearly states that the mark was missed and that making SPECIFIC changes it would add more value. She didn’t do the work for him but gave him direction and has made herself available for questions.

TL;DR (Takeaway)

People management can be very difficult. My best advice is to be very intentional with your words (which was never my strong suit).  Be direct and say what you mean. Don’t intentionally be a jerk but focus on getting the message across as your first priority vs avoiding being “the bad guy”.