If you haven’t heard of it before, Trello is an online collaboration / project management tool.  We’ve been testing it on a few projects at Distilled and personally I really like it.  Most people who I’ve spoken to use it differently, its very flexible.  In this post I’ll talk a little bit about the features and how I use it to manage multiple SEO projects.

Will actually did a short Pro Tip video over on the Distilled YouTube channel on Trello a few days ago –

Why I like it

Trello allows you to create a “board” for each of your projects, you can then break this board down into various stages in a project life cycle.  This tends to lend itself well to web development / software development projects where you have stages such as in progress, testing, live etc.  You can see a good example of this as well as other Trello features by looking at the public board for Trello itself –

The cards are very easy to organise because you can drag them up and across the columns.  You can also “flip them over” and write more details on the back such as adding comments, due dates, attachments etc.  Here is what it looks like –

Back of Trello Card
This is great because you can chuck all your notes, links, ideas and other stuff to the card and when the time comes to do the work, you have all your required information in one place.

Another great feature which makes it great for collaboration is the easy assignment of cards to team members.  You can do this just by dragging their profile picture into a card.  So you can easily see at a glance who is meant to be working on what within your project –

Front of Trello Card
The one thing to remember here is that to truly be effective, all team members must embrace and use the system.  Its no good assigning cards to people if they never login and check them!

Update: Thanks to Marc for pointing out this nifty little Chrome extension which lets you copy a Trello board including the columns, preferences etc.  This is really cool for using the same board template across multiple projects.

How I use Trello for SEO Projects

At first glance, Trello doesn’t lend itself well to my SEO projects.  Particularly as some tasks are ongoing and happen once a month.  For example these may be tasks which you repeat every month or continue over the course of several months –

  • Review Google Webmaster Tools
  • Link building
  • Competitor analysis

However you can break these tasks down and make them more precise and actionable.  For example, just having a card for “Link Building” is never probably never going to get moved to the done pile.  Its probably going to be ongoing.  However you may have different types of link building which are more precise –

  • Red widget infographic outreach contact list creation
  • Scrape competitor As links and order by DA
  • Survey SEO team for existing contacts in client industry

You can make these into cards and they can be moved to your done column.

My Trello Setup

I try to keep my setup as simple as possible and will tend to only have four columns –

  • Deliverables
  • In Progress
  • Delivered
  • Waiting for Client

I make sure that at the start of an SEO project, the Deliverables column includes EVERYTHING that the client has requested as part of our contract.  Of course these may change as the project progresses, but as a starting point, I make sure I have written down everything we have agreed to do.

I’ll tend to order the deliverables roughly in order of which ones I’ll work on first.  Then when I’m actually working on that deliverable, I’ll move it to the In Progress column.  I try to make sure that I have no more than 2-3 deliverables in progress at one time.  Otherwise it can be too easy to spread yourself too thin and end up not finishing anything.

When working on multiple clients, I’ll often come across relevant opportunities for clients I may not be working on at that precise moment.  For example I may find a good link opportunity, but I don’t want to get distracted away from my current work.  So I’ll quickly pop over to Trello, find the card that is relevant and add a note on the back.  If a card doesn’t existing, I’ll just add one and come back to it later.

Possible Additional Column – Ideas

In relation to this, you can also have another column for “Ideas” which can be things you think of which may not be part of an agreed deliverable.  You still want to capture these ideas somehow and make sure you don’t just forget about them.  So an ideas column which you check every few days can be very good for this and possibly adding extra value to your SEO project.

This also sits well with the Getting Things Done system which encourages some kind of way of capturing all your ideas into one central place.  You can just do this in a single column and if an idea becomes a deliverable, you can just move it along the columns and delegate accordingly.

You can combine this with another nice feature of Trello – the ability to vote on cards you like.  You can see this on the public Trello board I linked to above, each card has a number of votes which can help the guys at Trello see what ideas people want the most.  This can be a great way of collaborating on ideas you have for clients and seeing which ones your team think you should work on next –

Vote button in Trello

Where Trello could be better

The one thing I’d love to see Trello do is create a way of filtering cards across multiple projects. For example if I want to see all the cards that are currently “In Progress” across five projects, it would be great to filter and see what I should be currently working on.  Right now, its a case of going through each project one by one which isn’t terrible, but can take time.

Overall I really like it, its not perfect, but most tools for project management are not perfect for everyone.  If you use Trello, let us know in the comments what you think of it and any tips you have for using it.

Categories: Getting Shit Done, SEO


Posted by

Paddy is co-founder of Aira, a digital marketing agency in Milton Keynes.

Leave a Reply