While we all know the factors that contribute to visibility and traffic, it can be difficult to work out how to build an effective SEO strategy from all these elements.
Given how changeable Google can be, it can seem a little overwhelming planning 6 or 12 months in advance. Especially when you have limited time and resources at your disposal - and other work to manage!
That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to creating an effective SEO strategy. From goals to resources, client management to the tasks that get the job done - this guide will give you a great overview of how to create an effective SEO strategy.
First of all, we need to understand why creating a strategy is important.
A clear SEO strategy does a number of things:
Quite simply, having an SEO strategy that is tailored to objectives increases the likelihood of success. This is because you have a robust plan that you know in advance is bespoke to a website. When you can plan and visualise work in advance you are able to give it more thought and consideration, making sure each month builds on the last to reach the stated goals.
With each hour serving the overall objective, you don’t spend time on tasks that will have little tangible impact. Neither will you waste time on planning month by month, which runs the risk of making your strategy short-sighted, with each month dislocated from the next.
When you are clear about the tasks that will be undertaken over the next 6 months, for example, you will be able to effectively plan in internal resources months in advance. This will prevent awkward situations where work can’t be carried out because there is no internal capacity!
This helps you feel secure that the work will be delivered, and gives you clarity on who and what you will be working with month on month.
Having all of your hours planned out and assigned to tasks also helps you manage internal budgets, if applicable, helping you to stay on track.
Rather obviously, when you plan out a whole strategy in advance, it gives you greater peace of mind over the SEO work. You won’t have to repeatedly revisit the pain points every month, or repeatedly reassess what needs to be done.
Planning in advance also frees up time every month for actually doing work. With a handy strategy to reference, it only takes a quick glance to work out what needs doing that month.
Having an SEO strategy is also a great way of giving your clients or internal management a clear roadmap for their SEO. To those not intimately involved, SEO can often seem quite intangible and conceptual. Having a clear plan, with a rationale for every hour, can really open people’s eyes to what is done every month to increase organic visibility and how much work it actually requires.
Before creating a strategy, it’s important to understand what you are trying to achieve. Are there specific organic traffic targets? Do you want to increase sales? Do you want to take up more search engine results page (SERP) real estate?
Knowing what needs to be achieved, and marrying this with what you believe is important, tangible and achievable, is important to creating a strategy that is ultimately beneficial.
It could mean you focus on specific pages or techniques to increase visibility for particular pages or the website as a whole. This helps clarify what you need to do each month.
A key factor in the SEO strategy is understanding where the website is at the moment. By performing an initial audit of the organic performance, you can identify key priority areas that align with your goals.
For example, there may be a very weak backlink profile. You might, as a result, choose to prioritise outreach and link building to improve the website’s authority. On the other hand, there may be other issues which are more important, or more closely align with the set goals.
This is for you to determine, and it can be a tricky task. But ultimately you have a set number of hours per month, and it is your job to allocate these to the jobs which are not only a priority, but will ultimately help achieve the established goals in the most effective way.
It is wise to begin each strategy with an in-depth audit, with periodic hygiene checks pencilled in to make sure the website is in great shape.
One of the most important, but often neglected, parts of an SEO strategy is the client or stakeholders themselves. Many guides to SEO strategy outright ignore this component, which can make or break your strategy.
For example, if you know that your client or internal management has a complicated structure, where it takes months to approve on-page content changes, you may want to factor this into your strategy. This may mean frontloading the most essential pages’ changes first, and progressing onto other tasks while you wait for sign off. This needs to be included in your plan.
Unless you are directly managing your own website, there may also be restrictions in terms of website permissions and changes. As a result, you may wish to prioritise off-page tasks, while factoring in the time it will take for management or the client to sign off on website changes with their development team, for example.
These timings can impact the likelihood of achieving goals. This will need to be communicated to relevant parties to ensure work can happen as fast as possible.
On the other hand, management or the client may be very open and quick when approving work, or even allowing you to make changes without sign off. This needs to be considered also, as it will determine the pace of your strategy.
There may also be meetings, emails and calls required as part of account management. In addition, you may face ad-hoc requests that take time away from the planned strategy. Again, these all need to be considered.
As you can see, the client and your colleagues themselves can play a big part in how you plan your monthly hours, what you choose to focus on, and how much time you will need to allocate to admin and ad-hoc requests.
When designing a strategy, it can help to break down the overall strategy into categories and break these categories down into specific tasks. At Reflect Digital, we break SEO work into the following categories:
By breaking down SEO into the above categories, it can make planning out specific tasks more manageable. For example, by completing the website audit, you may discover a number of technical issues that need resolving. These can then be planned into the coming months to ensure these important issues are resolved.
Or, you may need to create a document providing fresh, keyword-optimised content for important pages. The research, writing and uploading of this content can then be planned into the coming months.
By analysing the above categories and delving deeper into the website along these lines, you will discover a number of specific issues that need to be addressed. It may help to list out all the issues and order them according to priority. From here you can assign hours to complete these tasks every month.
The above also need to be considered when planning your hours. While these do not contribute directly to the strategy, you will need to put at least 2 hours aside every month to make sure these elements are covered. Otherwise you may find yourself not having enough time to complete the tasks! This may not apply if you are looking to improve your own website, or do not have any other parties to communicate with.
When planning these hours out across many months, you will need to be aware of any internal resources that may delay the execution of the work.
For example, if you have technical changes that need to be made to a website, it’s important to know how fast the development team will be able to implement these changes. If you are both an SEO and developer, you will need to make sure you have enough time to execute the changes alongside other work.
An important part of executing the monthly work is making sure you do not complete all of the work too fast. While it may feel great to get jobs done and dusted in the first week of the month, you’ll run into a problem halfway through the month when an urgent task needs completing, additional changes are requested, or an ad-hoc request comes through.
For this reason, you will want to pace yourself so that there is still work to be completed or time set aside for later in the month. This will allow you to either swap out hours to get an urgent task done, plan a request into next month’s activity, or inform parties that a pre-planned task needs to take priority over an ad-hoc request.
Communication and time management is key here and making sure the others know what is happening is important so that they are aware that there are set hours for ad-hoc requests.
It is up to you whether you share your complete plan with a client or other stakeholders. The advantage is that they will know exactly what is planned over the coming months. The disadvantage is that they may see it and want to make changes that impede its effectiveness, according to their own priorities.
Sharing a plan may also give them a misguided impression that the plan is set in stone, when in fact it should be considered a roadmap for future work.
This can depend on the individuals and how beneficial you think sharing the detailed plan will be. You might find it more helpful to outline the work that will be undertaken at the start of each month. This could be included as part of the monthly report.
Visualising your strategy is an important part of making it understandable and real to both you and relevant stakeholders if you choose to share it.
One way of doing this is having the identified tasks listed in one column, and the months listed along one row. The table can then be filled in with the number of hours it will take for that task to be completed that month.
A Google Sheet version of the plan can also be really helpful for giving the individuals view-access or commenting on additional information next to each task to provide context. Having a single, collaborative document also allows you to edit a single version of the document, and not have multiple versions of the plan circulating.
It’s key that the plan is visualised simply both for you and other parties. You should be able to tell at a glance what you are doing every month. Stakeholders should be able to understand, in plain language, what is happening each month.
Your strategy needs to have flexibility built into it. This will create a buffer should the client or internal management have an urgent request or non-detrimental modification to the plan. This will also give you time to plan in corrections to issues or tasks that arise out of monthly analysis and reporting.
Being flexible with your plan will allow you to stay honest to the initial roadmap while having enough flexibility to deal with issues as they arise. This flexibility is appreciated, as the website owners will have both their long term and short term needs met.
However, it is important that you are not too flexible with your plan. Bending to every request or suggestion will not only undermine the point of the strategy but also prevent you from carrying out the tasks to achieve the established goals. This can also lead more requests to accumulate as they realise how adaptable the plan is and how quickly their request can be met.
Being firm with your strategy will cement its importance to third parties and give them boundaries in terms of what can and can’t be accommodated in line with their monthly hours.
If the strategy does change at any point, this should be communicated to the those concerned, so they are always kept up to date with the current state of the strategy and the priorities.
To help make your strategy a success, make sure you keep in mind these important tips: