The 8-Step SEO Project Checklist to Get You Started on Your SEO Program

Yellow notepad with lettered tiles spelling "To Do."
Want to get your SEO program going but not sure where to start to get the most bang for your buck? Here’s an eight-step SEO project checklist that can serve as your roadmap for SEO:

  1. Website audit
  2. Keyword research
  3. Competitor research
  4. SEO siloing
  5. Tools setup and data analysis
  6. Content creation
  7. Optimization
  8. Linking strategy
  9. FAQ: How can competitor research enhance my SEO efforts?

1. Website Audit

Start your SEO project by taking stock of your current situation.

An SEO website audit analyzes issues hindering search engine rankings and areas needing improvement to gain more visibility in the search results and drive organic search traffic.

This is a critical first step in any SEO project. You need a baseline. And there are several ways you can go about doing an SEO audit.

SEO audits can range anywhere from simple scans that rely solely on data from an SEO tool to comprehensive audits that include expert SEO analysis in addition to data. Of course, we recommend the latter to uncover any issues that an SEO tool simply won’t be able to.

Once you have a list of things to fix, you’ll want to prioritize them from most important to least important and work on the things that will have a high impact first. An SEO expert can help you with this step.

Pay attention to the things that matter. Do things that will have an SEO impact. And do not get bogged down with things that will not really improve your site.

For more, see:

John Mueller quote about SEO tools.

2. Keyword Research

SEO keywords are single words or short phrases that represent the search queries that people use in a search engine. Website marketers select keywords and use them to guide content creation and optimize their webpages as part of their SEO strategy.

Using keywords, you can align your website topics with what your audience is looking for. When you optimize your webpages with keywords, it helps communicate to the search engines what a webpage is about.

There has been talk for a long time about discussing concepts and themes, not just keywords. I agree with that, but I think that if your content is not obviously about what the searcher is looking for (keywords), then Google will pick a different site that is about that keyword. So the keyword is mandatory, and first among equals goes to those establishing themselves as experts on that topic and theme.

All of these efforts can improve the chances that a search engine will find a webpage relevant to a particular query.

For more, see:

3. Competitor Research

When it comes to SEO, you always want to beat the competition, not the algorithm. So knowing what your competitors are up to is a great way to improve your own SEO strategies.

To do this, you want to assess both your market competition and your online competition, which can be two very different sets of businesses.

You’ll need access to the right tools to be able to understand things like:

  • Who is ranking for your target keywords?
  • What sort of on-page and off-page SEO tactics are they using?
  • What factors are potentially helping them rank well?

The concept is to be “least imperfect” — do what the competition does right but just better, and don’t do what they do wrong. Nobody is perfect — we can be better and win by being less imperfect than the competition.

For more, see:

4. SEO Siloing

We invented siloing in 2002. There have been many articles and tutorials competitors have written over the years to the point that hierarchical navigation and theme structures are pretty much the standard for SEO. So I am amazed at how many still get it wrong.

SEO siloing structures a website’s content and connects navigation in a way that helps your website become more relevant for organic search results and easier for website visitors to navigate.

The concept lines up with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines advice to:

“Make a site with a clear hierarchy aligned by words users would type and with pages containing a reasonable number of text links that point to the important parts of your site.”

To do this, you use your products and services along with your keyword research to structure the navigation and content on your website.

This practice can drive real SEO results by concentrating and linking together your focused content that matches the common query. It will almost always result in more visibility in the search results, more traffic, and more revenue.

For more, see:

5. Tools Setup and Data Analysis

SEO tools help you quickly discover data that will matter to your SEO program. This data can offer important information about how your website is performing in the long run and where it can improve.

There is no shortage of tools out there, and the tools you select should fit your need. Here, I am talking about the tools that will help you monitor the website as you execute your SEO strategy.

As the above John Mueller quote shows, the average tool offers broad-brush results that seldom make much difference. You should always improve your site, but first, focus on what drives traffic. If a million people each get the same recommendation, then that recommendation will eventually be of little help.

You need access to Google Analytics and Google Search Console as a baseline. These two free SEO tools give a ton of data on user behavior and site performance.

For more, see:

6. Content Creation

Websites need a lot of quality content to compete in organic search results. And depending on the competition, some websites need more than others.

The content you create will be guided by the research you’ve done (keyword, competitor, etc.) as well as the site structure (SEO siloing) you’ve laid out and quality best practices.

Don’t skimp on this step because quality content is one of Google’s top ranking factors.

I want to emphasize that there are three content projects in any SEO project: new content, rewritten content, and revised content. New content is great for expanding your themes and keeping up with industry news and changes. BUT if you never refresh content through spot revisions or occasional rewrites, then your site is viewed as out of date and less expert. Read this as a warning: maintain your existing content, or your old site loses expertise and rankings.

For more, see:

7. Optimization

“Optimization” is a broad word. It encompasses a lot of things you can do to improve the performance of an individual webpage or the website as a whole.

Here, you will consider things like on-page optimization tactics that include:

  • Your content: its quality, its length, how it compares to the competition, and more
  • Keyword optimization
  • Meta info and heading tags
  • Structured data
  • Image optimization

… and technical SEO factors such as:

  • Page code
  • Site speed
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Sitemaps
  • Server maintenance

Of course, this is an abbreviated list. And the work you do here will be ongoing.

For more, see:

8. Linking Strategy

Okay — this is an area full of emotional marketing hype. An entire sub-industry exists that promises rankings simply by getting links at any cost. And Google is fighting it. Google wants the No. 1 result to be an expert, authoritative and trusted site, not a site that spent a ton on link building.

And people selling link projects do not want you to know:

Quotes by Google's John Mueller on links.

One of the first things that should be identified is whether a website is potentially being penalized for spammy link practices. This is something that can be uncovered in the website audit. If there are issues here, those need to be addressed first.

Your linking strategy includes a website’s internal linking, inbound links, and outbound links, and absolutely not just inbound backlinks. Each of these areas should be taken seriously as you build a quality and relevant link profile for a website.

We developed link pruning as a methodology for removing bad links. You may also want to do that because removing bad links is often far easier than gaining great ones.

From there, you want to get a bird’s eye overview of your website’s link profile and assess your links for quality. Then, you need to start thinking about how you will attract quality, relevant links. Finally, you will continuously monitor the link profile to make sure it remains sound.

For more, see:

Following this eight-step SEO project checklist will give you a good roadmap for your SEO program, no matter where you are in your SEO journey.

Need help with your website specifically? Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss customized services to meet the needs of your SEO project.

FAQ: How can competitor research enhance my SEO efforts?

Mastering SEO is essential for online success. One often overlooked yet highly effective strategy to boost your SEO efforts is competitor research. By delving into what your rivals are doing, you gain a wealth of knowledge that can significantly enhance your SEO strategy.

Competitor research is more than just watching the competition; it’s about dissecting their successes and identifying gaps to improve your approach. You can uncover hidden opportunities and refine your tactics by analyzing their keyword targeting, content strategies, and backlink profiles.

One key benefit of competitor research is gaining insights into high-performing keywords that may have been overlooked. You can expand your keyword list and capture untapped search volumes by identifying keywords driving traffic to your competitor’s sites. This strategic advantage can lead to increased organic traffic and improved search rankings.

Furthermore, competitor research allows you to assess your industry’s content landscape. By understanding the type of content that resonates with your audience and performs well in search results, you can create more targeted and engaging content that attracts and retains visitors. This boosts your SEO efforts and enhances user experience and engagement.

Backlinks play a crucial role in SEO; competitor research can unveil valuable linking opportunities. By analyzing your competitor’s backlinks, you can identify authoritative websites within your niche that you should target for link-building. Building relationships with these sites can result in quality backlinks that improve your website’s credibility and search ranking.

Transitioning smoothly from competitor research insights to actionable steps is vital. Start by compiling a list of your main competitors and use tools to analyze their keywords, content, and backlinks. Identify patterns, trends, and gaps in their strategies, and develop a plan to incorporate these findings into your SEO strategy. Regularly monitor your competitors’ activities and adjust your tactics accordingly to stay ahead.

Researching competitors is a powerful SEO strategy-improvement strategy. Leverage their insights to enhance your strategy while discovering new keywords, enriching content creation, and building quality backlinks. Embrace competitor research as a cornerstone of your SEO strategy, and watch your website’s search engine rankings soar.

Step-by-Step Procedure: How to Leverage Competitor Research for Enhanced SEO

  1. Identify Main Competitors: Compile a list of your top competitors in your industry or niche.
  2. Keyword Analysis: Use keyword research tools to identify keywords your competitors are targeting.
  3. Content Evaluation: Analyze your competitors’ content to identify popular topics and formats.
  4. Backlink Assessment: Examine your competitors’ backlink profiles to identify authoritative sources.
  5. Gap Analysis: Identify gaps and opportunities in your competitors’ strategies.
  6. Keyword Expansion: Incorporate high-performing keywords from competitors into your list.
  7. Content Enhancement: Create valuable, targeted content based on insights from competitor content.
  8. Link-Building Strategy: Develop a plan to acquire backlinks from authoritative sources.
  9. Monitoring Tools: Utilize tools to monitor competitors’ activities and strategy changes.
  10. Regular Updates: Adjust your SEO strategy based on ongoing competitor research.
  11. On-Page Optimization: Implement on-page SEO techniques inspired by competitor analysis.
  12. User Experience Enhancement: Improve user engagement by adapting successful content formats.
  13. Backlink Outreach: Reach out to authoritative websites for potential link-building collaborations.
  14. Content Promotion: Promote your optimized content across various channels.
  15. Performance Tracking: Monitor changes in your search rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks.
  16. Continuous Improvement: Iteratively refine your SEO strategy based on competitor insights.
  17. Trend Identification: Stay updated on emerging trends and shifts in your industry.
  18. Collaborative Learning: Engage with your team to brainstorm and implement insights.
  19. Adaptation: Be flexible and adapt your strategy based on evolving competitor landscapes.
  20. Regular Reviews: Conduct periodic reviews of your competitor research and strategy adjustments.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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33 Replies to “The 8-Step SEO Project Checklist to Get You Started on Your SEO Program”

Thanks, All the information was very helpful for me.

Thanks for seo guides for new projects. Its very helpful for all seo executive.

hey Bruce thanks for the list

Thank you for the article! Even though the SEO strategy takes the last place, it remains an extremely important aspect of the entire optimization company. I recommend paying enough attention to it.

Thank you so much for sharing such a useful master piece for everyone out there. It is no more news that SEO is the way forward if you want to be found online. Thanks once more

Hello, Bruce I appreciate you sharing the list. Do you believe that SEO-friendly URLs are made to satisfy both user and search engine needs?

Robert Stefanski

Hi Mohit,

Thank you for your question! URLs are not so much for search engines as they are for memory, convenience, or implication of what is on the page. Search engines will use them to index the page, but short and simple URLs should be used to satisfy the user.

I appreciate you sharing such a helpful list with everyone. For those who wish to begin implementing SEO for their project, following this 8-step checklist will be an excellent starting point. .

Woow , amazing steps and content , I appreciate your work , best points ever !!

The point you have shared SEO Siloing, is new to me..
it woud add the value in our work.


thanks for sharing the vaulable information about on page..

these points are very important to know to do effective SEO.

Thank you so much for sharing such a useful list for everyone out there. Following this 8-step checklist will be a great roadmap who wants to start out with doing SEO for their project. You can also take help of a digital marketing consultant, who will prepare a tailored digital marketing plan for you.

A wonderful checklist for SEO beginners. Awesome guide.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful article with us. Very Informative Post!!

Hi, I have read your blog and found it very useful. Thanks for sharing such an interesting article with us. Keep Sharing.

Hey Bruce, Thank you so much for the list. Do you think we can also include URL Structure & Core Web Vital as well in the list?

This is what i have been looking for, amazing work!!

Thanks for an amazing blog.

A wonderful Checklist for SEO Beginners.

Best for beginners and even experts forget the simple steps.

Thanks for sharing, Please update more content.

This is good for those who are beginners.

URLs that are SEO friendly are created to fulfil the needs of users and search engines. Clean URLs rank higher in search results, appear more trustworthy, and are easier to share. Google’s Core Web Vitals are a set of standardised metrics that developers can use to understand how users interact with a web page.

Awesome guide for beginners. It helps a lot.


Very nice… I really like your blog, useful info.

Now in 2022 I think the key is “Optimization”

Your article gives helpful information for beginners.. Thank you.

It’s a good stuff and for those who are beginner.

Backlink are the major factor in SEO.

Bad backlink can affect your site as well as in ranking factor too.

Hey Bruce, Thank you so much for the list. Do you think we can also include URL Structure & Core Web Vital as well in the list?

SEO friendly URLs are designed to meet the needs of users and searchers. Clean URLs perform better in search, appear more trustworthy, and make sharing easier. Core Web Vitals are a set of standardized metrics from Google that help developers understand how users experience a web page. Nowadays, it is also essential for ranking your website.

Recently I was doing some research on SEO and I landed on your website and read one of the guides. It was awesome and helpful

Best checklist for project checklists.


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