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How to Create an SEO Roadmap: Your Blueprint for Success

Published on: 
February 17, 2021
Updated on: 
September 12, 2022
by
Tory Gray
Tory Gray

The path to strategic website optimization is full of twists and turns. Defining the core initiatives behind your SEO plan is one thing, but putting those components into a working process is another. This is exactly why you need an SEO roadmap. 

Your SEO roadmap strategy 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 build a blueprint that paves the way toward higher search engine rankings and improved SEO ROI, then follow these steps to create an SEO roadmap that drives impactful results. 

Table of Contents

What's an SEO Roadmap?

An SEO roadmap is a collective document that outlines the prioritized action items for implementing your digital marketing search engine strategy. It includes detailed tactics, tasks, and target deadlines. But beyond defining the “how” and “what” of your SEO strategy, the roadmap also references the “why” behind each item, offering team-wide context for decision makers and execution teams alike. 

In short order, a good roadmap identifies key SEO opportunities and explains how to best leverage them. This can include a combination of new implementations and improving what already exists. Your SEO roadmap doesn’t have to be a linear checklist, either. It can be retrofit to accommodate your unique objectives, so long as it serves as a collaborative resource that helps prioritize your efforts and keeps your team on the same page.

While every organization has its own unique set of priorities, your company could benefit from an SEO roadmap 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

SEO Roadmap vs SEO Strategy: What's the Difference?

As the overarching process flow behind a team’s efforts, 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 an actionable set of tasks designed to achieve your SEO goals. 

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,) and then choosing some tactics that will likely help you achieve your vision. At a minimum, your SEO strategy should focus 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. A sound strategy 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. 

There are many reasons why roadmapping the components of your SEO strategy can make a lot of sense. Beyond fostering collaboration and direction across your team, a roadmap can help answer important strategic questions while explaining the reasoning behind your decisions. It also serves as a point of reference that helps future-proof your overall SEO strategy, especially in a dynamic and growing team where roles can evolve and new talent is acquired.

Gray Dot’s SEO Roadmap Template

Before you embark on your journey of building an SEO roadmap from scratch, consider using this free template to help make the processes a bit easier. We have taken what we’ve learned over the years and assembled this simple SEO roadmap template. Take it and run with it, or follow the guidance below to help fill the gaps. 

Screenshot of our free resource - an SEO Roadmap template made in Google Sheets
Google Sheets SEO Roadmap Template

Building Your SEO Roadmap

Building Your SEO Roadmap

At a high level, building an SEO roadmap strategy should emphasize what your team should be doing and how it can make continuous progress and achieve goals consistently. Below is a series of considerations you should keep top of mind throughout this process. 

Explore Your SEO Needs

Some SEO roadmaps only focus on one or two particular areas, like content marketing and technical SEO needs. But we’d argue that your roadmap should take into account other valuable parts of SEO as they align with your business objectives. 

Depending on what your goals are, you should take into consideration: 

  • Data tracking, analytics, and dashboarding needs
  • Usability and site performance SEO needs 
  • Technical SEO needs
  • SEO copywriting and blog writing needs
  • Content marketing and amplification needs
  • Link building strategy 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?)

Prioritize these SEO elements if/when they align with your business objectives, strategy, or model. These factors can help you define what should go on your roadmap, how you prioritize the list, and ultimately decided what (and what doesn’t) make the cut.

In addition to the strategic components above, also take into consideration the types and applications of SEO and how they fit in with your roadmap strategy.

  • Local SEO needs (NAP consistency, using local schema, and digital community building) 
  • International SEO needs
  • Domain SEO needs
  • New products or service launches
  • PPC advertising and greater SEM needs
  • New (or under-served) audience targeting
  • PR needs (maximize the return via building more or better links)

Clearly, there’s a lot that can go into a roadmap strategy. But don't worry - you can either take it slowly, one step at a time, or hire professional SEO services to lead the process 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 is 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 your 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 and intent of this new keyword match up with your goals?)
  • Content comparison (what topics do they cover that you’re not? How are they structuring content differently? And how well is that working?)
  • Pricing & promotion comparison (do you charge more, and if so, is the value tradeoff obvious and 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 and 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?)

An investigation of your top competitors can help you understand the LOE (Level of Effort) they’re investing into their SEO strategy today, and in some cases, what they’re 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 make an SEO strategy “stick”. You have to work within the confines of your targeted goals and available resources to come up with your best possible plan. 

To accomplish this, start by breaking all of your SEO projects down into specific tasks. Organize those tasks in a chart and rate how much effort (time, resources, etc.) you and your team will have to put into each task. 

Next, rank those tasks in order of priority. Prioritize them based on urgency and potential impact. Look for ways to scale repetitive tasks that are non-urgent 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 strategy is to pinpoint “quick wins” and prioritize them in your SEO roadmap. Quick wins are tasks you can complete in a short amount of time that make a considerable 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 make a positive difference in its performance over time? 

For example, you may find an old blog post that generates a fair amount of organic traffic but ranks low on the first page of the search results. By spending a couple of hours updating the post’s copy and links, you may be able to improve its organic position and double (or triple) its traffic.

Quick wins can also be technical SEO related, like redirecting and deindexing duplicate content, adding schema markup, or fixing broken internal links. Matters that might take an hour, or even a day, could be well worth your time when tackled sooner rather than later.

Create a Timeline

Choose a period of time to execute your SEO roadmap. In doing so, segment your timeline into phases. For example, consider using quarters as your “phases” if you’re creating an SEO roadmap for an entire year. 

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

Having created her fair share of SEO roadmaps, Chief Digital Officer of The Gray Dot Company, Sam Torres, offers a bit of advice:

“When making your roadmap, it can be easy to get completely wrapped up in the net new initiatives. Don't forget to include time dedicated to reviewing your results, as well as maintaining site integrity - whether that's through updating content or ensuring the technical health of your site. That's not to say that you should make a checklist, but make sure you're thinking about those needs when planning how much you can get done in a quarter, for example.”

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 the work to an SEO consultant or agency

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.

Align Tactics with Business Objectives & Strategies

Before you give tasks the green light, stack up your list of strategies and tactics to your broader SEO strategy. You can even take this one step further by harmonizing your SEO roadmap with your overall business and brand goals. 

Consider focusing on key areas that apply to both SEO goals and business objectives, like user experience, engagement, and CRO (conversion rate optimization). Executionally, this might include tactics like page speed improvements, image metadata, mobile optimization, or copywriting updates. 

Also, ask bigger picture marketing and branding questions, like what do you want to achieve and why? Who are you trying to reach and what are they searching for? Making sure your data and audience personas are rock solid at this stage is crucial, as it’s the foundation for your roadmap strategy. 

This holistic mindset can help you prioritize what tactics matter most while helping eliminate anything that may be a distraction or can be revisited at a later date. 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 long game in mind. 

In other words: show, don't tell. 

Don't expect your executive team to make mental leaps between what you are doing, and why. Have a clearly-defined roadmap strategy that aligns with your greater SEO and business goals.

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. 

Similarly, talk with your stakeholders and discuss ways to coordinate teams across different channels and inputs. SEO works best when it's cohesive and cross-functional across an organization. In turn, you can cultivate efficiencies, reduce time and effort, and minimize duplication. 

Consult your stakeholders and look for ways to prioritize efforts that also support: 

  • Brand Strategy
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing/Editorial
  • Email Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Product/Engineering
  • Data Science

When everyone's on the same page with SEO “in mind”, it will profoundly impact your ability to scale your SEO efforts and realize success.

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-haves for this step. Paid tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Screaming Frog, and Sitebulb, among others, are some of our favorites that can help you dig deeper and uncover meaningful next steps for your roadmap.

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 audit 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 

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 combination of both. 

New content helps you fill subject matter gaps and keep up with the topics that competitors are writing about. In doing so, you’ll need to learn the art of choosing the right keywords for SEO ranking and conversions. It can also be expensive and time-consuming because you have to brainstorm new ideas and 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, start by determining specific content topics (new or already published), matching keywords, metadata, and an outline or brief for each piece. Also, look for internal linking opportunities and ways to elevate your content so visitors will be encouraged to spend more time on your site. Create a content tracking process using a spreadsheet, matrix, or project management board that can be used in conjunction with your SEO roadmap.

Road map: find your way with a strategic SEO roadmap
Find your way with an SEO Roadmap

Create a Reusable SEO Roadmap Template

Once you’ve arranged your ideal SEO roadmap format and mapped out key action items to guide your direction, consider creating a reusable template that you can use in the future. You can save big picture timelines, repetitive tasks, and any other information that you’ll likely need for other projects. 

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 and detail of a spreadsheet with a Gantt chart. We recommend defaulting to the format that’s preferred by whoever is greenlighting your SEO roadmap strategy - 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. 

This approach takes a much more granular approach in figuring out the inner works of your roadmap strategy. So if you found the latter considerations to be a little too fundamental, we encourage you to check out our presentation Agile SEO 101: Building a Continuous Improvement Machine for Search Engine Optimization.

SEO Roadmap Maintenance and Follow-Up

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 comprehensive 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.

Actualize Your 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. We can help conduct an SEO audit, create an SEO roadmap, and execute a plan that effectively achieves all your biggest SEO goals.

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