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How to Create an SEO Roadmap: Your Blueprint for Success

Published on: 
February 17, 2021
Updated on: 
September 24, 2021
by
Tory Gray
Tory Gray

The path to strategic website optimization is full of twists and turns. Which is exactly why you need an SEO roadmap. 

Your SEO roadmap shows you where your site has been, where it’s going, and how you’ll get there using tactics, actionable tasks, and scalable workflows to do so. 

If you’re ready to pave the way towards higher search engine rankings and improved SEO ROI, then follow these impactful steps to create an SEO roadmap that drives results. 

What is an SEO Roadmap?

An SEO roadmap is a written document that outlines the prioritized action items for implementing your digital marketing search engine strategy. It includes detailed tactics, tasks, and deadlines. Your company may need one if: 

  • You want to align your digital SEO efforts with your business goals
  • You need to get team members on the same page
  • You need to organize and streamline all of your SEO projects

What is an SEO Roadmap (vs an SEO Strategy?)

An SEO roadmap is a step-by-step plan for executing your SEO strategy. Think of it like this: the SEO strategy is the “what”and the “why”, whereas the SEO roadmap is the “how”. The two go hand in hand to create a highly actionable set of tasks that have a high likelihood of achieving your SEO goals. 

If you’re wondering what is an SEO strategy and what should one contain, you’re already on the path to SEO success. Because according to IMPACT, 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority for 2020. So you’re following in the footsteps of cutting edge marketers just by learning more about it. 

In a nutshell, strategy means looking at the big picture (where your business is, where you want it to go, and what actions you can take to get there) then choosing some tactics that will likely help you achieve your vision. At a minimum, your SEO strategy should information on brand positioning, S.M.A.R.T. goals, and KPIs for each SEO channel. 

To develop an SEO strategy, you’ll need to consider what’s realistically doable for your timeline, budget, and resources. You should use data such as website analytics, keyword research, and channel statistics to inform your decisions. Afterward, use this information as the foundation for your SEO roadmap. 

Building Your SEO Roadmap to Support Your SEO Strategy 

Explore Your Options

Some SEO roadmaps only include technical SEO features and requirements, but we’d argue that it should take into account other valuable parts of SEO as they align with your business strategy. But no matter what your goals are, you should look to include these required elements: 

  • Technical SEO needs
  • Usability & site performance SEO needs
  • Link building needs (including outreach plans with social media profiles including LinkedIn, backlink development through guest blog posting and broken link outreach, and off-page optimization) 
  • SEO content marketing needs
  • Other digital channel needs (for example, where can you create efficiencies and save time/effort helping out two or more channels instead of just one?)

We also recommended these elements to support search engine optimization (if/when they align with business strategy or your business model). These ranking factors help you define what should go on your roadmap, how you prioritize the list -  and figure out what does - and does not - meet the cutoff.

  • Local SEO needs (tactics include improving MAP consistency, using local schema, Yelp business listings, and digital community building) 
  • International SEO needs
  • New products or service launches
  • New (or underserved) target audience targeting
  • PR needs (maximize the return via building more or better links)

Clearly there are a lot of SEO tasks you must complete but don't worry - you can either take it slowly, one step at a time, or hire professional SEO services to do it all for you. Either way, there is plenty of opportunity for growth as long as you stay organized and consistently take action. 

Evaluate The Competitive Landscape

All things being equal, you might work against improving the typical SEO to-dos. The problem with this is simple: all things are not equal. 

SEO is all about relativity. How good are your website and content relative to a specific tactic? AND how good are your competitors at that tactic (and all the others)? The more mature your business and industry is, the more you need to understand your SEO landscape. 

What are you doing better than competitors? What are they doing better than you? What gaps might be present? Where can you blow them out of the water? 

Some key items to dig into: 

  • Backlink profile comparison (how many links, from where, at what quality, etc.)
  • Keyword gap comparison (what do they rank for that you don’t? Does it make sense to target that? Does the search volume & intent of this new keyword match up with your goals?)
  • Pricing & promotion comparison (do you charge more, and if so, is the value tradeoff obvious & worthwhile?)
  • Site performance comparison (read as: site speed. Are they faster or slower than you?)
  • UX comparison (is your site more or less user friendly vs. your competitors? How well organized & intuitive is it to use?)
  • E-A-T comparison (does your brand have more Expertise, Authority & Trust vs. competitors? Are you doing a good job

You'll want to investigate to try to understand the LOE (Level of Effort) your competitors putting into their SEO strategy today - and where possible, what are they planning next. This Competitor Investment Analysis can be done via web research in an organized fashion - check out our Competitive Investment Dashboard Template to get started.

Competitive Investment LOE Dashboard Template
Create your own Competitive Investment LOE dashboard with our template

Define Level of Effort (LOE)

As any good strategist will tell you, throwing spaghetti at the wall does not an SEO strategy make. You have to work within the confines of your targeted goals and available resources to come up with your best possible plan. 

So break all of your SEO projects down into tasks. Organize those tasks in a chart. Rate how much effort (time, resources, etc.) you and your team will have to put into each task. Then, rank them in order by priority. Prioritize them based on urgency and potential impact. Look for ways to scale repetitive tasks that are nonurgent yet impactful with SEO tools or help from specialized freelancers. Plan to review and/or update this list every quarter. 

Find Quick Wins

One great SEO roadmap strategy is to find quick wins. Quick wins in SEO are tasks you can complete in a short amount of time that make a noticeable difference in your site’s SEO performance or sales. Think: what’s the one thing I can do to my website right now that will convert at least one lead today/this week/this quarter? For example, you may want to find the web pages that currently rank on the second page of search results and optimize your SEO campaign so web pages move up to the first page instead. 

Create a Timeline

Choose a period of time to execute your SEO roadmap. Next, break your timeline down into phases. For example, if you’re creating an SEO roadmap for an entire year, consider using quarters as your phases. 

Afterward, plot out your quick wins. Then, add your urgent and impactful (e.g. timely requirements) tasks followed by your nonurgent and impactful (e.e. strategically important) tasks. Finally, insert ongoing and open-ended activities in your remaining time slots. 

Remember to include how long you think each individual task will take, who will execute and/or review it, and how you’ll measure the success of each task. If it’s an ongoing maintenance task, clarify that and specify a maintenance cadence.

SEO Gantt Chart Timeline
Gantt charts are a great way to plan and visualize SEO Roadmaps

Decide Who Owns The Work

Assign a qualified team or individual to each task. Take task dependencies into account and find creative ways to consolidate duplicate tasks through batching or outsourcing. Come up with a workflow, communication, and file-sharing plan so everyone is on the same page. Although tedious to set up, getting this step squared away in the beginning can really help marketers and engineers do their best work together. 

Clearly Align Tactics with Goals & Strategies

Before you wrap it all up, compare your list of tasks to your broader SEO strategy. Make sure they support each other. Eliminate any that may be a distraction or can be revisited a later date after another tactic is tested. Once you’ve narrowed down your tactics, set mini-deadlines and benchmarks for each one so you can monitor progress in the short term while keeping the big picture in mind. 

In other words: show, don't tell. Don't expect your exec team to make metal leaps between what you are doing, and why.

Prioritize Business and Brand Goals 

What do you want to achieve and why? Who are you trying to reach and what are they searching for? Make sure your audience personas are rock solid at this stage since they’re the ones you’re creating the strategy and roadmap for. 

Also, focus on key areas that apply to both SEO goals and business goals: user experience and CRO (conversion rate optimization). This usually includes tasks like page speed, image metadata, and mobile optimization. 

Look for Channel Overlap 

Where can you reduce or streamline your workload across teams to maximize impact? Which channels offer the highest ROI for your business? You may want to adopt a project management system to organize, communicate, and execute it all. 

Cover Website Essentials

What tools will you need to measure progress, carry out tasks, and keep track of it all? Who should have access to each tool? Should you do a content audit and how in-depth should it be? Hint: If your site isn’t brand new, you’ll definitely want to audit it. Tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and a good site crawler are all must-have for this step. 

Dive Deeper Into Technical SEO

Should you maintain the current website or migrate it to a new platform or domain? Should you conduct a technical SEO to see the health of your website and look for fixes that will improve it? When conducting a technical audit, make sure you determine which areas you plan to monitor. Plan to do recurring audits for your site architecture, XML sitemaps, error codes (like 404 pages), crawl issues and errors, and schema markups. 

Create Strategic SEO Content 

what-is-your-seo-content-strategy

Should you create a new SEO content strategy? Or evaluate and improve the optimization of your existing content? Chances are you’ll need to do a bit of both. 

New content helps you fill subject matter gaps, keep up with topics competitors are writing about but you’ll need to learn the art of choosing the right keywords for SEO ranking and conversions. Also, it’s often expensive and time-consuming because you have to brainstorm new ideas then write them from scratch. 

Optimizing existing content helps push rankings for certain keywords even farther up the results page and keeps your branding consistent. But just focusing on existing content means you’re missing out on new SEO opportunities. 

When developing your strategy, plan to come up with a topic, matching keywords, metadata, and an outline. Look for internal linking opportunities so visitors will be tempted to spend more time on your site. Create a content tracking process using a spreadsheet, matrix, or project management board. 

Create a Reusable SEO Roadmap Template

Once you have your SEO roadmap ready to go, consider making an SEO roadmap template. You can save big picture timelines, repetitive tasks, and any other information that you’ll likely need again in the future. Templatizing your SEO roadmap keeps you from reinventing the wheel with every new phase or project - especially for ongoing maintenance work, or work against SEO technical debt. Plus, you can tweak it as you go along. By changing one element at a time, you’ll be able to test variations and see what works best for performance and workflow. 

How your template is formatted worked for you; some teams like a PowerPoint presentation, while others prefer the structure & detail of a spreadsheet with a Gantt chart. We’d recommend defaulting to the format preferred by whoever is going to greenlight your SEO Roadmap - since it’s their opinion that makes or breaks the plan.

Establish and Follow Agile SEO Best Practices

SEO is best served when approached from a perspective of continuous improvement. Your roadmap is a key tool in defining how, when and why you'll iterate. It's also something that should be approached in an agile fashion to maximize results. Learn more in our presentation Agile SEO 101: Building a Continuous Improvement Machine for Search Engine Optimization.

SEO Roadmap Maintenance and Follow-Up

measure-key-seo-benchmarks

First, you’ll want to check in with your SEO roadmap regularly to ensure all your resources are being used to their full potential. To make the check-in process easier, make sure each task includes a status update option of some kind so you’ll know how far along all your projects are at a glance. Most tasks require prep, drafting, revision, and publication, so be sure to have at least these four stages as options for marking progress. 

Next, you can improve your SEO strategy by keeping a master list of projects and their KPIs that you update at regular intervals to track results. Compare projections versus actual progress and adjust accordingly. For ease of reference, add direct links to assets, published content, and KPI measuring tools/reports within your project management platform itself to save time. 

At a minimum, you should be measuring these 5 key SEO benchmarks:

  • Target Keyword(s) Ranking
  • Organic Impressions
  • Organic Traffic (especially non-branded organic traffic)
  • New links
  • Organic Conversions + Conversion Value

If you don’t already have standard operating procedures (SOP) in place, now is the time to either develop or document them. For example, you can create an SOP for optimizing new blog post content that includes tasks such as using Ahrefs and Moz, auditing keyword placements in metadata, comparing past versus current rankings, and double-checking to make sure other content from your site isn’t competing with each other in search results. 

Or, if you already have standard marketing strategy operations procedures in place, take the time to find new SEO streamlining tactics so the work becomes quicker and easier to scale. For example, you may want to create a user-friendly digital quarterly evaluation guide that links out to relevant tools, spreadsheets, and trackers so that new team members can perform these tasks without too much extra guidance. 

Build an SEO Roadmap with The Gray Dot Company

Now that you know what an SEO roadmap is and how to create one, it’s time to put your SEO strategy into action! If you need help creating or executing any portion of this project, feel free to contact us and find out how our SEO agency can conduct an SEO audit, create an SEO roadmap and execute a plan that effectively achieves all your biggest SEO goals. If you need support on road mapping outside of SEO - we help with Roadmap Strategy Consulting in general as well.

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