The 8-Step SEO Project Checklist to Get You Started on Your SEO Program
- Website audit
- Keyword research
- Competitor research
- SEO siloing
- Tools setup and data analysis
- Content creation
- Linking strategy
- FAQ: How can competitor research enhance my SEO efforts?
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:
- What Is an SEO Audit? Why Do an SEO Audit? How to Do One?
- SEO Audits and Tools: The Good, The Better and The Best
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:
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:
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:
- SEO Siloing: What, Why, How
- 5 Times When SEO Siloing Can Make or Break Your Search Engine Rankings
- A Jam-Packed Guide on Internal Linking for SEO
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:
- 7 Google SEO Tools Every Website Publisher Should Use
- The Top SEO Software That Experts Use Every Day
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:
- What Makes a Webpage Quality?
- Complete Guide to the Fundamentals of Google’s E-A-T
- E-A-T and SEO: You Can’t Have One Without the Other
- What Are “Your Money or Your Life” Webpages?
“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
- Server maintenance
Of course, this is an abbreviated list. And the work you do here will be ongoing.
For more, see:
- The Always-Up-to-Date SEO Checklist
- Technical SEO vs. On-Page SEO: The Differences
- The 13-Step Web Content Audit to Boost Visibility in the Search Results
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:
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:
- The CMO’s Guide to the “New” Link Building Strategy in Less Than 5 Minutes
- What Are Outbound Links? Why Are They Important? And How Do They Work?
- The New Link Building Manifesto: A Complete Guide to Earning Links That Count
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.
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
- Identify Main Competitors: Compile a list of your top competitors in your industry or niche.
- Keyword Analysis: Use keyword research tools to identify keywords your competitors are targeting.
- Content Evaluation: Analyze your competitors’ content to identify popular topics and formats.
- Backlink Assessment: Examine your competitors’ backlink profiles to identify authoritative sources.
- Gap Analysis: Identify gaps and opportunities in your competitors’ strategies.
- Keyword Expansion: Incorporate high-performing keywords from competitors into your list.
- Content Enhancement: Create valuable, targeted content based on insights from competitor content.
- Link-Building Strategy: Develop a plan to acquire backlinks from authoritative sources.
- Monitoring Tools: Utilize tools to monitor competitors’ activities and strategy changes.
- Regular Updates: Adjust your SEO strategy based on ongoing competitor research.
- On-Page Optimization: Implement on-page SEO techniques inspired by competitor analysis.
- User Experience Enhancement: Improve user engagement by adapting successful content formats.
- Backlink Outreach: Reach out to authoritative websites for potential link-building collaborations.
- Content Promotion: Promote your optimized content across various channels.
- Performance Tracking: Monitor changes in your search rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks.
- Continuous Improvement: Iteratively refine your SEO strategy based on competitor insights.
- Trend Identification: Stay updated on emerging trends and shifts in your industry.
- Collaborative Learning: Engage with your team to brainstorm and implement insights.
- Adaptation: Be flexible and adapt your strategy based on evolving competitor landscapes.
- Regular Reviews: Conduct periodic reviews of your competitor research and strategy adjustments.