The idea of combining PM with SEO isn't new exactly, but it's a twist of my own work experience as a UI/Usability Quality Assurance Engineer.
Briefly, I was hired by an international Internet company that designed, maintained and hosted hundreds and hundreds of websites as a web designer. My background included being a self-employed SEO professional with a good reputation. The company that hired me utilized my SEO background when it became obvious that all our designs were being scrutinized by me from an SEO angle and I was speaking up about it.
The company wisely moved me from design to their new Quality Assurance Dept. As an experiment, (we had no idea who else in the world was doing this) they called me their Usability/UI QA Eng, but my test plans and methodology included all things SEO. Any new application front end needed to meet search engine/directory standards, as did all new UI. I developed test plans for this on my own because I couldn't find anyone doing this in usability circles.
Thus began the mini-wars with Project Managers representing Business Managers who had no clue or care about being found in engines. They simply wanted websites that sold things. I spent incredible time proving why their plans wouldn't work.
My role, and that of a Human Factors expert that was later hired to help designers, saved the company somewhere around a half million dollars in less than 6 months in wasted money trying their stupid ideas.
I can attest to the fact that companies don't like being told that FLASH sites aren't engine/user friendly.
I can attest to the fact that companies WANT to outwit and SPAM search engines and are willing to pay gobs of money to do so and/or pay programmers to design an application that will trick engines.
I can attest to the fact that project managers aren't trained in the fields they're assigned to. I taught PM's SEO and my design co-workers taught PMs basic web design. This is necessary to communicate to everyone buying into a project. I also taught my fellow QA Engineers who did server performance testing.
I can attest to how much fun it is to time servers rendering complicated code and crashing. I've watched servers render sites and when the user clicks on the 3rd web page, it crashes the server and renders the entire site unusable. How likely is it an engine robot is going index that?
What's overlooked is Quality Assurance and the addition of SEO professionals to this field. Along with heuristic evaluations, "discount usability testing", tasks, testing, and software app testing from server to code and back again - every website that's built with a business objective of wanting to be found by people and selling products on the Internet must be tested for proper SEO.
This is what I do now as a consultant. For some companies I am called a project manager. In that role I do SEO/QA/UI/Usability and on my happiest days, I actually get to code pages and do a little design (which I miss doing.)
One QA company in my area knows me and I've proven to them (over the past 2 years) the need for combining PM/SEO and QA. In fact, every site designed for this company for their own use didn't get past me. The design houses hired to build the QA company's websites did a terrible job. One website was completely graphics. There was no text anywhere on the entire site. Not even text links. Even the content was images. You know it's scary when even a QA company needs an in-house PM/SEO/UI/Usabilty person to cover their own butt, let alone work on client sites.
Now they want me to train people to do what I do - which is good because I'm turning away new business on a daily basis. I have too much work and nobody to refer this work too!
My point in this is that you're all on the money. There's a gigantic need for SEO and always will be. It meshes well with Quality Assurance testing, usability, and design. A person with project management background, who has experience in SEO/UI/Usability/Web Dev is worth a lot of money in my opinion. We're worth investing in. Smart companies will.
Wish I had the time to develop a database of folks with the right combo to carry on this sort of work. Hopefully you guys can push this. It's badly needed.
I started a small forum on my site (Yahoo Groups). Hope to get it off Yahoo and into the real world. We talk about this stuff there. I would love to help promote this thread, share resources on promoting PM/SEO work, and help in any way I'm able to.
There's a definite need for people who are trained to see the ENTIRE picture - from the business owner's wish list to design to programmer's reality check - to end user - to search engine promotion, and who can document, test, communicate and ease tensions between the entire team. It's a huge endeavor. I've done it.
The trick is to bring the programmers lotsa bagels and donuts.
All the best,