Whether you’re new to SEO and learning the basics, or an SEO rockstar with years of experience, creating an SEO plan is critical. In some ways, creating an SEO plan is like creating a full marketing plan – it involves benchmarking, research, setting goals, and strategic planning.
However, SEO is a unique marketing channel for many reasons. The criteria for what makes a great website is constantly changing, thanks to frequent Google algorithm updates. SEO can also take a lot of time to see results, and with that comes patience and closely monitoring the progression of results.
What are the steps to creating an SEO marketing plan? Here are six steps involved in the SEO planning process, with details on what to do for each step:
- Evaluate where you’re at
- Set goals
- Conduct an audit
- Create an implementation plan
- Monitor KPIs
- Pivot if needed
Step 1: Evaluate Where You’re At
This begins with measuring key performance indicators. What are some SEO KPIs to track?
- Keyword Rankings – if you have data using a keyword tracking tool like SEMrush, or even Google Search Console, you’ll get insight into how keywords rank over time.
- Overall Number of Keywords – this is a good indication of the overall performance of the website.
- Organic Search Traffic – using Google Analytics, understand how much traffic is being driven from organic search.
- Goal completions – the final step in the SEO cycle is driving conversions. A conversion, which can be set up and measured in Google Analytics, is the end goal you’d like a user to take.
Looking through the data, you will see where you’re at in terms of performance.
Step 2: Set Goals
Based on what you see in step 1, you should create goals to hit. Your goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based). Focus in on what matters most and create a goal within a timeframe.
- Time – your goals should be long-term. Consider setting monthly goals (for instance, “grow 10% in organic search every month), or yearly goals.
Step 3: Conduct an Audit
The SEO audit is where you uncover what is going wrong and identify opportunities.
Evaluating and planning for SEO involves creating an on-page plan, which starts with targeting the right keywords. From there, a plan is created to get keywords to rank. Typically, this plan includes optimizing metadata and creating page copy updates to include keywords and improve user experience.
Some essential questions to ask:
- Are there any major keywords you feel are missing altogether?
- Are there important keywords that are getting outranked by competitors?
There may be technical issues that could hinder the website from ranking better in Google and other search engines with many websites. When auditing a website, you should take the time to find these issues and the current negative impact they may be having on a website. Furthermore, you’ll want to look into the best way to fix the issue and get your website on the right track again.
- Thin and duplicate content
- Page speed
- Internal linking and site structure
- Page indexing issues
- Status code errors (404 errors, etc.)
With off-page SEO, you will look into backlinks, links from other websites that point to your website, affect your website. Backlinks still play an important role in Google’s algorithm and can directly affect the performance in organic search.
How is your website currently getting backlinks?
- Are there new opportunities to take?
- Can you partner with other businesses online as a way to get backlinks?
Developing a link building strategy to follow will ultimately help your website grow in organic search.
Step 4: Create an Implementation Plan
Now that you have findings from your audit, it’s time to create an implementation plan. This plan helps you stay organized while carrying out the solutions you determine in your audit.
A few things to think about:
- Prioritization: with the audit, you need to determine what to do first. When determining the things to prioritize, tasks should be combined as having a very high impact on SEO results, with a very low effort. As you build out into future months, you’ll want to start integrating longer-term implementation tasks, as well as lower-priority SEO fixes.
- Who owns what task: typically, there is a team working on SEO tasks. Another thing about SEO is that it spans different areas of marketing. These days, SEO involves public relations, advertising, social media, content writing, graphic design, and more.
- Tracking tasks: the taskmaster needs to track each SEO implementation task. This means sticking to the estimated number of hours and task due dates. In some cases, managing tasks means allowing for more hours or pushing back a due date.
Step 5: Monitor KPIs
Remember those KPIs you set in step 2? You should be evaluating these.
Monitor keywords every week – using a keyword tracking tool like SEMrush, you can create a project with keywords to track. Within the project, you can
Monthly reports – these should present your KPIs and what progress is made. More importantly, this is the chance to look into the “why”. Tell a story behind the numbers and data you’re seeing – and what tasks can be attributed to the growth of keywords, traffic, or online conversions.
ROI – is SEO driving revenue? In addition to Google Analytics goal tracking, consider using a marketing planning software like Plannuh to track your progress.
Step 6: Pivot (If Needed)
The way SEO works, you will slowly see results (or a lack of results) unfold. In my opinion, an SEO plan should be somewhat fluid, based on the results seen.
- Capitalize on what works – is there a strategy that is more effective than first anticipated? Make more time and dedicate more resources to carrying this strategy out.
- Ineffective tasks – sometimes, the tasks we create in our SEO implementation plan do not work for whatever reason. Whether it’s a lack of resources, poor execution, or lack of impact on SEO performance, it may make sense to focus your time on other tasks.
Pivoting tasks is all about finding what works for a website and the people who manage it. If tasks have more impact, don’t be afraid to pivot and update your SEO plan in the months moving forward.
Have more questions about planning for SEO and creating a strategy? I am a Boston-based SEO consultant that has strategized SEO plans for many clients.