SEO Triad Team Structures
How to create effective teams that plan and implement SEO roadmaps
The SEO Sprint is a fortnightly newsletter that provides tips, guidance and advice on Product and Agile Thinking for SEOs who work with developers.
Getting things done is one of the biggest challenges facing SEOs.
Effective teams that collaborate together to solve problems are critical to getting things done in business (not just SEO).
One popular method to make teams more effective is the Triad Team Structure.
The triad team structure is used by companies like LaunchDarkly and Atlassian to improve team effectiveness across product, design and development teams.
In this newsletter we’ll be answering the following questions:
What is a triad team structure?
How does a triad team structure work?
How can SEO triads be used to get things done?
Enjoy and please don’t forget to like and comment if you have any questions!
🤝 What is a triad team structure?
The idea of a triad team structure is simple.
A triad is a multi-skilled temporary mini-leadership team that acts as a problem-solving unit within a project (remember technically projects are temporary).
It is usually made up of representatives from product, engineering and design/UX.
However, it is important to note that in recent years the idea of triads has evolved to adaptive triads which include those from other disciplines.
A rule of thumb is that triads should be between 3 to 5 people. Any more and there might be too many opinions to make a decision.
The team is usually made up of senior members of the team who will be either working on the project or managing those who will be working on the project.
Note: I’ve personally found that having senior team members who also work on the project is the best way to form a triad.
🥅What is the goal of a triad?
The goal of a triad team structure is to increase the effectiveness of planning, scoping and implementation of a project.
It is the role of the triad to make sure that a project is meeting both the product and business strategy.
The business sets the vision and goals by senior management but it is up to each triad how they reach those goals.
⚙️ How does the triad team structure work?
The triad team structure forms in the discovery phase of a project.
This happens before planning and helps the team gain a better understanding of the project and the problem the team is trying to solve.
During the discovery phase, the triad discusses the feasibility, useability and value of the idea and agrees when the project can be marked as “done”.
The product manager and/or product owner will have the final say on features or specifications. There needs to be one person who makes a final decision, design by committee doesn’t often work.
Once the scope of the project has been agreed the rest of the delivery team is then brought in to break down the project in the product backlog into valuable pieces.
The triad then checks in to make sure that the project is being delivered and released based on the discovery and planning phase (there are always changes to review as the dev team implements specifications)
The project is fully completed and meets the agreed definition of “done” the triad disbands.
Note: This could mean that certain specialists clock out at certain points, for example, the developer doesn’t need to be in all marketing or pricing strategy discussions etc.
⚙️SEO Triad Team Structure
I’ve been using the triad team structure since 2019 when I was a product manager at DeepCrawl.
I now use this temporary team structure as a cheat code as an SEO consultant to work more effectively with development/design and product teams.
Instead of being a product owner or manager, the triad is formed around an SEO project and the SEO specialist.
🔴How does the SEO Triad Work?
The SEO triad is again quite simple in theory but hard to manage in practice.
At the beginning of the SEO/development project, once it has been signed off, the SEO, developer and designer form a small mini leadership team around the project.
It is important that the group needs to have the autonomy to make decisions quickly and within the triad, there needs to be a final decision maker (with input from the team).
The goal of the SEO triad is to work together to make sure the project is a success, including:
Goal and Vision Setting - The SEO specialist briefs the other members of the triad on the requirements and the why behind the project.
Discovery - The triad discusses, negotiates and breaks down ideas to make the idea as efficient and valuable as possible to get the project implemented.
Planning - The triad work with the delivery team (or even better it could be the members of the triad) to turn ideas, sticky notes and visuals into tickets just-in-time for the backlog.
Sprint - The triad makes sure that the right priority tickets are in the next Sprint and make sure that the work meets the agreed definition of done from the discovery and planning meeting.
Release - The triad works together to make sure the release has had a positive impact and the SEO reports back on the success or failure of the project.
✔️What are the benefits of the SEO triad?
The benefits of forming triads around SEO projects can help:
Turn ideas into reality - Involving team members from different disciplines early on helps to connect SEO ideas to development reality.
Break down ideas - The conversation around your idea can help quickly highlight the size of the project, and help to break it down into smaller chunks which can be easily released by the development team.
Provide a shared understanding - Once you’ve provided clear benefits to users and the business, a shared understanding of a problem can equal shared ownership that can result in projects being implemented.
Creatively solve problems - The shared understanding helps development, design and product teams create better ideas to solve problems to achieve the desired outcome.
Get (team) buy-in - A shared understanding helps members of the triad get their departments and team members on board to remove any roadblocks.
Reduce bugs and defects - The shared understanding of a problem and continual check-ins throughout the project life-cycle can help reduce bugs and defects when the SEO project is released.
💡Tips and Advice for Forming SEO Triads
The following are a few tips and bits advice from running SEO triads.
1# Don’t be afraid to start small
Although I mentioned the rule of thumb is a triad is made up of 3 to 5 members, do not be afraid to start at 2 people.
A key part of being agile is inspecting and adapting any practice to add value to customers. Perhaps 3 members are optimal for one project but the next project might need 5 members.
For example in one SEO project, I started off with just the developer to solve technical problems on a client’s website.
The client and the developer were so impressed with the way we worked that the triad evolved as projects got bigger and now numerous team members get involved at the start of any project.
2# Always bring clear vision, requirements and visuals
I have mentioned this in the interviews with the in-house SEO newsletter but a clear document is critical to working with development teams.
It is critical at the start of a triad that you help other members get a shared understanding of the project by providing:
Problem statement: Tell the team what problem you are trying to solve.
Target user: Tell the team who the target customer or user (Googlebot is technically a user BUT putting emphasis on actual customers is better).
Business case: Tell the team why the project is important and how it can help move the business forward.
Goal: Tell the team the KPIs you’ll be measuring the success of the project.
Requirements: Tell the team about any requirements that must be taken into account.
Vision: Provide any visuals to help better communicate the requirements and make what the outcome you want clearer.
Done: Provide clear criteria of what needs to be met to consider the project complete (known as the definition of done).
3# Use online whiteboards to capture ideas
I’ll write more about this in the future, but storyboarding is a powerful tool to help teams capture and remember ideas from conversations.
For example, at the moment I am working in a triad with a senior developer and designer in a SaaS company to improve the landing page and guide template designs. This is part of a wider project to improve website quality and the project is split into three phases.
The triad is reviewing each phase of the project together and gaining further understanding as things change throughout the project (things always change).
4# Record actions for each meeting (and the meeting)
The new age of hybrid working has accelerated technology which can really help triad teams work more effectively (even across time zones).
For example, video transcription tools like Vowel allow you to record meetings, automatically create a transcription, and make notes/set an agenda. All in Google Calendar.
This technology and toolset make it super easy to create clear actions from the meeting with an owner. These next steps make up the agenda for the next meeting.
The video transcription tools allow you to record triad sessions (with people’s permission). Things happen fast, so recalling information and getting a shared understanding is critical when things change week to week.
For example, when writing tickets I can quickly go back to a recent recording and listen to conversations to make sure I have tweaked the tickets based on developer feedback.
#5 Try to form triads around big bets
Finally, I’d recommend forming triads around “big bets” in your roadmap.
A triad isn’t meant to be used for every SEO ticket in the backlog (although there is nothing stopping you from trying it out).
Instead, I’d recommend creating a clear strategy or outcome-driven roadmaps that help teams understand there is strategic thinking behind the project.
Using a triad team structure for “everything” listed in your SEO audit can cause other teams to become oversaturated with new things to work on. A lack of focus from other teams will impact the ability to get things done.
Keep them focused on your big bet projects which can help move the needle.
📌Summary: Triad Team Structures
The triad team structure has been used by companies like Atlassian and LaunchDarkly to make teams more effective.
As SEOs, we can use this concept to create SEO triads that work more effectively with other teams to get things done and connect our ideas with development reality.