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

1. Website Audit

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

An SEO website audit is an analysis that looks at 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 by 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 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 and 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 an expert on that topic and theme.

All of these efforts can improve the chances that a search engine will find a webpage relevant for 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, now, 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 the 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 will seldom make much of a 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.

As a baseline, you need access to Google Analytics and Google Search Console. 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 the 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 want to do that as well because removing bad links is often far easier than gaining great links.

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.

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 BruceClay.com website.

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

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

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.

Testboymail

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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