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SEO Is More Than A Checklist

Maximize your SEO efforts beyond the checklist. Learn how to achieve better ROI and avoid common pitfalls when investing in SEO.

SEO is hard, it is complicated, and it has a lot of different paths that one can take to reach desired outcomes. It also involves a lot of trial and error.

The fact that it has the word “optimization” in it is sometimes lost on those who want a linear path – and maybe pitch or assume that there is one – to get to the results they are seeking.

While there are many widely accepted SEO “best practices” and things that you should do to reach your goals, SEO is much more than just doing a checklist of things.

I want to call out some specific aspects to make sure you aren’t someone who gets less return on investment (ROI) than what you expect when it comes to investing your own time, your team’s time, or any level of investment in time and money with an agency.

SEO is a discipline and marketing channel that can take quite a bit of time to see results.

I believe there are seven things that you need to focus on to avoid a checklist mentality and most wisely spend your investment of time, money, and effort.

Full disclosure: I own an SEO agency. I have friends who lead SEO teams and many amazing agencies take a strategic, high-quality approach to SEO for each of their clients. I’m not writing this article to bash anyone or put anyone down.

1. Set SEO Goals

Sometimes, it is tempting to just jump into “doing” SEO.

Admittedly, it can take time and requires short-term investments of time, resources, and focus to get to the longer-term payoff of reaching your goals.

Goals are important whether you’ve been doing SEO so long that you can’t remember when you started, you’ve just started in the past year, or you’re considering including it in your marketing mix.

No matter where you fall on that spectrum, take time to revisit or work through goal setting for the first time.

Do the research to know what your opportunities are to reach your target audience and what the investment might look like to get there.

Without defined goals, you run the risk of just “doing” SEO and hoping for an outcome.

Even if you have a baseline, start somewhere so that you don’t get to a point down the road where you revisit ROI and find that you didn’t have accountability in the process or that you spent a lot of time with little to show for it.

One of the biggest reasons I see for SEO not working is that there are misaligned expectations driven by inconsistencies in approach due to the lack of proper and objective goals being set.

2. Build A Specific SEO Strategy

Going hand-in-hand with having clearly defined goals is having a defined strategy. I often talk about the challenge of putting tactics ahead of strategy.

I had a client come to me a few years ago who worked with an agency, and each month in their calls, I wondered what the strategy was and who was driving it.

They would go into the meeting, look at keywords and targeting focuses, and bring up things that seemed basic but were “new” ideas that the search marketer would then take and implement in the coming month.

That is a red flag and validation that there was a checklist of sorts and not a bigger-picture strategy in place.

And, no, the strategy can’t be the checklist and the checklist isn’t the strategy.

Yes, a common approach or methodology of working through the range of technical, on-page, and off-page aspects of SEO should be expected.

But how we work with the website tech, shape the content, and build authority and trust is much more robust.

Doing your initial research, making an informed investment with an expectation of return and knowing how it will allow you to reach your goals is important.

If you can’t articulate the strategy, it is probably too complicated or poorly defined. That’s the litmus test that I use.

3. Define & Acquire Resources You Need

Whether you’re a one-person team, have a broader in-house team tasked with SEO, or hire out aspects to freelancers or agencies, you need consistent and defined roles for the resources you need to implement your strategy and reach goals.

That includes covering all of the SEO-specific aspects of technical SEO, content-based SEO aspects, links, local, reporting, and more.

Beyond that – unless you are a unicorn or have one on your team – it will require some other disciplines and subject matter expertise to come to the table with you.

That can include UX designers, writers, web developers, product managers, sales team members, and more.

Getting all resources aligned around your goals, in the know about your strategy, and all working together to implement the SEO strategy is important.

You don’t want to spend half of your desired ROI timeline waiting for others to help or having to iterate on their work more than you planned based on a lack of prioritization or understanding on their end.

4. Build & Document A Plan

I’m a big proponent of planning.

In fact, I might be wearing people out with my obsession with the topic.

Every digital marketing effort needs a well-defined, objective, documented plan.

There are so many shiny objects and distractions. All of the changes to search engines (which have always been a distraction but necessary thing to keep up with) as well as the emergence of AI.

We can’t ignore the changes and new things. We must test them and leverage them.

We also can’t ignore them and fall behind.

Having a defined plan is key to that.

And, no, I’m not contradicting myself here. A plan is different from a checklist.

The plan should restate and detail the goals, articulate the strategy, and include tactics and the measurement plan (more on that later).

Another big area where I see SEO getting off the rails is when there’s no defined plan that is objective.

When it isn’t documented, it can be easy to put off SEO when things get busy. Or, it can be too focused on the checklist and not be connected with strategy. Or, it can even be too rigid without built-in agility and room to test.

5. Measure SEO Results

With all of my focus on goals and ROI, measurement is critical to SEO. I’m going to assume that in your goal setting, you have defined goals that impact your business overall.

While SEO is often defined by rankings, impressions, and website visits, it drives, in most cases, the key metric or most important KPI is conversions.

Whether a conversion is a lead, ecommerce sale, or some other valuable activity for your business or organization, it can be deeper than where some SEO pros are comfortable going.

I admit that early in my career, I was focused on SEO metrics and not as much on the things that I felt I couldn’t control or got messy when talking about that conversion and how it got all the way through to actual revenue for a business.

Being clear on what you’re measuring and how it connects with the goals and knowing in real-time what the performance indicators are will guide good SEO and the level of agility and optimization that you need.

6. Maintain Agility In Processes

Balance is probably a great word to use at this point as I talk about having definitions and plans, and also maintaining agility.

I’m a big believer in phased-out optimization and processes that allow understanding of what actions and variables we implement impact performance.

I’d rather implement something each week than work for six months on a large initiative so I can see how things perform (or don’t).

The nature of optimization is that it never ends. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” site for the search engines or our visitors.

Whether you’re optimizing technical aspects or content, you’re working on making things better.

Better is always relative, and you have to have planned out room for optimization whether you’re doing best practices, strategic items, or leveraging new things like AI.

7. Integrate SEO Efforts With Marketing

SEO performs better when it isn’t siloed and is part of a broader digital marketing mix.

Aside from the broader need for subject matter expertise outside of just SEO talent (noted regarding resources earlier), SEO can greatly benefit from shared insights and integration with paid search, social media, PR, influencer, and other marketing channels.

If you’re in a service-based company and have thought leadership content, that can be leveraged efficiently by multiple channels, including SEO, as either a leader in defining it or being part of the team when it comes to sourcing it.

Making sure SEO is as tightly integrated into the business and marketing goals and efforts as possible will help create efficiencies with resources and level of investment – and ultimately get people on the same page to properly value it and what it can do to drive meaningful ROI for the business or organization.


My hope is that you don’t waste time or money on SEO efforts that are doing “good” things but aren’t ultimately delivering for you.

If you’re in a position where you feel performance isn’t meeting your expectations, I would challenge you to consider if any of the aspects that I detailed are misaligned in your current investment.

I’ll be the first to say that you must have a process and plan to avoid an inconsistent or chaotic approach, but that you should expect to see strategy instead of just tactics.

A checklist could and probably should be included in how things are managed.

However, a checklist or the implementation of SEO best practices by itself will not necessarily get you to the ultimate results you want.

More resources:

Featured Image: Stockbakery/Shutterstock

Category SEO
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Corey Morris President / CEO at Voltage

Corey is the owner and President/CEO of Voltage. He has spent nearly 20 years working in strategic and leadership roles ...

SEO Is More Than A Checklist

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