How Time Tracking Helped me Handle an Entire SEO Agency Remotely

SEO is probably one of the toughest things to coordinate in an in-house team. You have the writers, the linkbuilders, the developers, designers, strategists, technical SEO people and the project managers. Talk about a huge variety of talent!

I’ve been in the SEO industry a little over 4 years now. 3 years of that as founder and CEO of SEO Hacker – an SEO services company in the Philippines. And I’m telling you, it’s crazy having all that talent and personality under my belt!

Our office is a rented house located down south of Metro Manila. We’re a team of 20+ people doing our own thing. I was in the office every day since I literally live there. Things were going smoothly.

Then I got married and moved out.

It’s been almost a year since I moved up north of Metro Manila – a good two to three hours away from my office and team at SEO Hacker. Naturally, I don’t go to the office anymore – my team doesn’t see me as often as it would waste at least 4 hours of my day in Manila’s heavy traffic.

Our team’s output dropped steadily and I wasn’t happy at all about it. You see, we don’t really have sanctions in our internet access – my team can access any website they wish and spend as much time as they like with it. Apparently people in the team spend a lot of time using Facebook and Youtube. And with me gone, it just got worse.

How I Implemented Hubstaff for time tracking within my team

Then one day a mentor of mine introduced Hubstaff over lunch.

“It’s a time tracking tool”

“Oh yeah? I think my team won’t be all that happy with the invasion of screenshots being taken.”

“Yeah but if they’re not doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to worry about. Plus, it takes 3 screenshots per 10 minutes max so it’s not as intrusive as you think.”

So I went back to my desk and checked it out. At first I was skeptic. How was this time tracking tool gonna increase our team’s output? How is my team going to react? How am I going to communicate this to my team?

It was a struggle for implementation so I asked around my team for volunteers on who was willing to test Hubstaff out with me.

In the end I got around 3 volunteers. Just a few but it was all I really needed.

A few weeks in and I was seeing my team’s activities, idle time and work hours in my dashboard. I couldn’t be happier with the accountability our time tracking tool, Hubstaff, was giving. But that wasn’t what really got me sold. It was that these 3 volunteers actually had improved numbers over the rest of my team!

So I went to my managers and shared the data with them and we made plans to implement it to the rest of the team.

The numbers went up dramatically.

No Sanction

I didn’t sanction Facebook or Youtube or other non-work related website from our team. All we did was implement Hubstaff and it got the performance up almost overnight.

Second thing I implemented was Skype. Everyone was required to login and log-out of Skype in our team so that we have open, direct communication with each other and we know each others whereabouts.

This is especially good for me as I work remotely now and I would need the help of some people in my team on some occasions.

Hubstaff helps with accountability, Skype helps with communication – two very important things to consider when working remotely.

Starting up Again

I started up Qeryz recently – it’s a SaaS tool that helps people gather insights through an on-page survey. I immediately applied Hubstaff and Skype on that team because it’s a remote team to start with and it’s going to be a remote team all the way.

Today I work remotely for 4 out of 5 days a week. I’m enjoying my marriage, our newborn baby boy and time to exercise, watch a movie and set weekly meetings with mentors and industry contacts. It’s definitely life-changing to know that my teams are working without the need for direct supervision.

In fact, I was so pleased with our new set-up that I included Hubstaff in our SEO Hacker Creed!

Here’s the part of our creed that was influenced by Hubstaff:

We believe in a working culture that is not stemmed on bureaucracy, strict rules and corporate red tape. Our company deals a lot with art and creativity. And art is quite unbridled in nature. This does not mean, however, that we can do anything we damn well please with our work.

For freedom to be a tool for success, it has to come hand-in-hand with accountability. We believe that in order for an individual in our company to have true freedom that will result to the success of the team and ultimately, the company, it has to be in the bounds of accountability.

We do not believe in blocking social media sites and ‘fun’ sites like 9gag and tumblr because we believe it could be valuable sources of information, creativity, and not least of all, stress relief. We do believe, however, that we should not exploit these freedoms for our personal use or purposeless entertainment.

There lies the problem: These freedoms are so easily exploited during company hours. The thing about freedom is that if it is exploited by a teammate, it can be so easily justified to oneself to exploit it as well. The effect then turns into a vicious cycle.So we have embraced systems to help avoid that pitfall. To be accountable.

One of them is our Skype login. This is to keep everyone in the team in the loop on each others whereabouts and availability.

Another system is Hubstaff. We are all paid for our time spent making the company grow. Hubstaff enables us to check ourselves if we are taking care of our freedom by committing our time to the success and growth of the company.

Takeaway:

  • People need a mechanism of accountability not just because they work remotely but because it’s so easy to get lost and spend time surfing the web or checking personal social media accounts
  • Different people need different levels of supervision. The ones who work well without supervision have no problems with Hubstaff. The ones who don’t work well without supervision are improved with Hubstaff. In the end, it’s a win-win.
  • People need a form of ‘report card’ even if it’s just data on their hours spent at work. Hubstaff has a report emailed after each week on the hours of the team, the projects and the individuals. I made sure to have the reports sent to everyone in the team so that they would be able to see how much time each of them spent at work. I even included myself in the report for transparency.
  • A time tracking tool like Hubstaff eliminates the need to hire expensive management staff for supervision purposes and keeps your schedule open for other opportunities or work you need to personally accomplish

I hope that you give Hubstaff a shot. It doesn’t need to be implemented in your entire team. You can start with a control group like I did – and see if it improves the productivity significantly.