SEO is a big discipline. Without structure and planning, a lot of time and dollars can be wasted or used inefficiently.
A lot of SEO activities are started and never completed.
Couple that with the fact that SEO is never “done,” and it can be hard to start, finish, and stay on track with prioritized strategic and tactical elements that have a chance to make a real impact.
By breaking SEO down into daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual milestones and process-driven tactics, you can build the right level of planning to keep it on track and efficient.
These activities should be tied to goals and a larger strategy, but offer a great framework for how to make sure SEO is well planned and structured on an annual basis.
Staying up to date on industry news is a critical aspect of SEO that must be built into any maintenance or ongoing management plan.
This ranges from the mission-critical alerts and updates the search engines announce themselves to keeping tabs on SEO best practices and breaking news from sources like Search Engine Journal.
Big shifts in the industry are hard to miss.
But smaller, more subtle changes can become magnified when you miss them or best practices become outdated.
Don’t fall behind or deploy outdated tactics!
Know Your Current Metrics
Monitoring your key SEO performance metrics in real-time, or at least once per day, is especially necessary for brands and companies that rely on ecommerce transactions or lead volume to feed a sales team.
Knowing how your website is performing in search through top-level metrics is important for recognizing any red flags. These could include:
- A specific or aggregate positioning drop.
- An organic traffic drop.
- A decrease in sales or lead volume.
Being able to recognize problems as soon as they happen is key.
You need to be able to diagnose issues and reverse any negative trends before they impact your overall marketing and business goals.
By keeping tabs on actual performance, you can compare to benchmarks and baselines to make sure that you fully understand cause and effect with your metrics and not have an issue happen for too long before you can intervene.
You can monitor less critical KPIs (any that don’t necessitate an immediate reaction) on a weekly basis.
Make Progress On Tactics
A solid SEO plan or campaign must have goals, a strategy, and specific tactics outlined.
Without a plan, process, or defined approach, you can waste a lot of time chasing specific SEO aspects that might be low impact and low priority.
The daily process should include specific tasks, milestones, and achievable actions that work toward the bigger picture.
The tactics can include things being done for the first time in a phased approach or action items that are more in a rinse and repeat methodology.
Regardless, the list of specific technical, on-page, and off-page action items should be defined for the year, broken out into months, and further into tactics and progress that can be made on a daily basis to stay on track.
SEO requires both big picture thinking and the ability to tackle daily tasks and action items.
Report On Performance
Beyond the daily or weekly KPI monitoring, it’s often important to use monthly cycles to more broadly report on performance.
The focus of monthly checkpoints allows for dedicated time to compare a larger sample size of data and see trends.
Monthly performance reporting should include year-over-year comparisons of the completed month plus any available year-to-date stats.
Find meaningful intervals to measure and be consistent. Looking at bigger ranges of time helps to see trends that are hard to decipher in small sample sizes.
Any stories of the what and why for deviations in goal, celebrations for exceeding goals, and metrics that warrant possible changes to the plan are critical to the surface and prioritize through a dashboard or snapshot report of the performance data.
Recap Completed & Continuing Action Items
This is a chance to evaluate the tactics and execution in the previous month against the plan.
- Was everything completed?
- Were there deviations?
- What obstacles or roadblocks were in the way or overcome?
Looking at the past helps shape the future.
When you combine the action items and tactics with the performance data, you should get an overall picture of the reality of what is driving SEO performance.
Plan Next Month’s Action Items & Evaluate The Plan
Monthly intervals are great for ensuring accountability for the completion of tasks.
Even when the year is planned out, things change in SEO, and performance isn’t always what we expect after doing something the first time.
Taking a monthly planning approach, adjustments can be made to the plan like doubling down on a specific tactic or adjusting the overall strategy to recalibrate.
By being agile enough to monthly evaluate performance and tactics, you can avoid overthinking things and reacting too swiftly, but also not let too much time pass and lose footing with trends toward goals.
Having a good balance of planned tactics and actions versus the need for agile methods to pivot when needed is often the best approach to stay current and proactive.
Technical Issues Auditing
Assuming you have covered technical issues at the beginning of your SEO focus and are also watching for any that trigger red flags in daily and weekly monitoring, it is important to take a broader look through an audit each quarter.
This audit should include a review of reported issues in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Plus, comparison to benchmarks and standards for site speed, mobile usability, validation of structured data, and the aspects that aren’t often looked at on a more frequent basis.
On-Page Issues Auditing
Without an audit process and even with frequent monitoring, things happen on websites.
A code update, database update, a plugin/extension update, or publishing content can cause duplicate tags, duplicate content, or even missing on-page elements.
A quarterly audit of on-page issues that can be conducted using a wide range of free and subscription third-party tools is important.
There are tools that will even send alerts and factor into the daily process if something changes like a meta description being wiped out.
Regardless, having a solid tools stack and process for quarterly evaluation and comparison to the previous audit is important to ensure that the results of the audit and any fixes needed are noted and make it into the tactical plan.
Link Profile Auditing
The SEO plan overall likely includes some form of link building.
Whether that is through attracting links with engaging content or a more focused plan of research and outreach, it is likely a part of the ongoing tactics (or should be considered, if it isn’t).
The investment of time and effort into the tactics makes it important to have visibility of the overall link profile and progress.
This might be a performance metric tracked in the monthly reporting phase, but quarterly should be audited in a deeper sense.
Evaluating the quality of links, the number of links, diversity of sources, relevancy of linked content, comparisons to competitors, comparisons to benchmarks, and period-over-period comparisons are all important aspects to ensure that the plan is performing as intended in the area of backlinks.
Plus, if not caught through daily or monthly efforts, any spammy links or negative SEO attempts can be caught here and addressed through the disavow process.
Local Listings Audit
Once local listings management is in maintenance mode, there won’t be a frequent need for major changes with NAP (name, address, phone) data or inconsistencies in listing data.
However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen and that it can be “set it and forget it.”
An audit using third-party tools to ensure accuracy and consistency of data is strongly advised at least quarterly.
This audit can identify issues that can be addressed on a one-off basis as well as provide guidance on performance and any needed changes to the content, reviews, and other aspects of the listings themselves beyond the basic NAP data.
If any third-party data sources or listings were missed, Google Business Profile data can be overwritten with inaccurate listing info.
Even if nothing changes with your management of listings, data can change and needs to be monitored at a minimum.
When running annual plans for SEO – and even when not on annual agreements or evaluation cycles – taking an entire year of data and evaluating it is helpful to advise strategy and find measurable ROI calculations.
SEO is a long-term process to achieve the most competitive positioning possible in search engines. It is a valuable investment of time to look at performance data over 12-month spans, compare it to previous periods, look at benchmarks, and celebrate successes.
Even if you don’t have annual budgets or agreements with outside partners/providers, taking an annual step back and looking at performance and the effort like an investment rather than an expense is important.
Planning Strategy & Tactics
In addition to reviewing yearly performance data, you should also be planning out your goals, strategy, and tactics for the next year.
Even though the plan could change a week into maintenance, having a plan, and setting a target is a key to measuring progress.
Without a plan and using past learnings and a realistic view of the resources being invested in the coming year, there can be a gap between expectations and reality.
It is best to sort this out before getting months down the road.
We all have goals and specific outcomes we want to achieve from our SEO investments and efforts.
Rather than reacting and getting pulled into things that scream the loudest, having a structure and organization to how the work is done can keep your time and investment focused.
Whether it is technical factors, on-page, content, or backlinks, by having a set cadence and structure in your approach you can balance both planned activities and maintain the agility needed to react at the moment.
And make sure that progress is made and priorities for SEO work don’t get out of balance.
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