To scale, every search strategy needs a solid blueprint - an SEO roadmap.
When it comes to your enterprise SEO objectives, you can develop this roadmap one of two ways.
One: assess your search visibility, audit the site and links, identify quick wins based on the data, and start implementing them one by one.
Two: align your overall strategy with the company’s goals first. Then, create processes to maximize your time and effort in achieving those objectives.
Both approaches work, but only one of them, however, allows you to deliver the best search experience for users consistently and at scale.
In this post, I’ll show you how to implement an SEO roadmap within your organization. You’ll learn all about how to define day-to-day components of your SEO strategy in order to deliver consistent results and improved SEO reporting every time.
IMPORTANT! At the end of this guide, you'll also find an SEO roadmap template that will help you create such a strategic document for your organization.
Let’s begin by understanding the scope of an SEO roadmap.
What is an SEO Roadmap?
An SEO roadmap is a strategic document an organization uses to keep all SEO-related activities on track, eliminate errors, and streamline decision-making.
The roadmap outlines details about every tactic the company uses or intends to introduce to its SEO efforts. It also defines key responsibilities, as well as various workflows and standard operating procedures when delivering each tactic.
Why Bother Developing an SEO Roadmap?
You know how to deliver the strategy, after all. You also know how to work on each of its elements, what to do and when. Why create an SEO roadmap, then?
Two reasons, actually:
- To help answer questions from other project stakeholders regarding the strategy.
- To future-proof the strategy. Any major change within the organization - hiring new people to expand the SEO team or losing key stakeholders - will affect the strategy, after all.
The roadmap will provide guidance and a reference point in both situations. It will either help explain the reasoning behind some of your decisions or help new people familiarize themselves with how you deliver the strategy.
SEO Roadmap: Defining Day-to-day Components of the Strategy
For many SEOs, terms like “strategic document” or “project progress” feel intimidating, and I can understand why.
Unfortunately, to them, both terms relate closely to what a solid SEO roadmap is:
A strategic document that defines what you should be doing and how to achieve high results consistently.
A roadmap helps keep everyone on track and eliminates the risk of potential errors. What’s more is that it informs every stakeholder interested in SEO progress about your actions, plans, and procedures to meet them.
A typical SEO roadmap will focus on the following aspects of your work:
- The current state of your SEO efforts
- Quick wins that you could implement with little effort to achieve significant results
- Topic and keyword research
- Content audit results
- Technical audit results
- Upcoming SEO initiatives
A solid roadmap will also define each core tactic you’re using, and then break them into standard operating procedures and workflows.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
An SOP is a set of step-by-step instructions that define how to carry out a specific, often routine task.
A standard operating procedure typically relates to delivering tangible tasks, like updating a web page, for example. They’re almost never used to define the process of completing a specific objective.
SOPs are set in stone; once an organization defines how employees should go about a specific task, they should complete it the same way each time.
And I believe that’s what puts many people off them so much.
Coincidentally, though, it’s that quality that allows them to improve SEO strategy. As our founder, Mitul has pointed out in an earlier post:
“Replacing inconsistency with purposeful, measured and directed effort is CRITICAL to an Enterprise's ability to be successful.”
It’s only when all teams, often scattered across the globe, approach SEO tasks in the same way, an organization can achieve the scale needed to achieve its goals.
SOPs ensure the highest possible impact of marketing teams' actions on SEO.
A workflow, on the other hand, defines all stakeholders in the project, their responsibilities, and timelines for completion. In short, it gives structure to a combination of SOPs and helps achieve a specific objective.
A good example of an SEO workflow is creating more authoritative content or updating it to increase relevancy.
Both SOPs and Workflows are critical for an SEO roadmap.
Search visibility rarely depends on a work of a single department. Even a simple task like updating a page might require help from IT or content teams. Link building involves outreach, creating quality content that is worthy of links, and more. And many technical SEO issues can be fixed by the IT team only.
Good results only happen, however, if all SEO stakeholders understand their roles, responsibilities and always complete tasks to the same standard - which is exactly what SOPs and workflows help ensure.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some common SOPs and workflows in SEO.
Examples of SEO Standard Operating Procedures for an SEO Roadmap
You already know that SOPs define steps required to complete a specific task. You also know how crucial developing them is to your strategy’s success.
And here are examples of some common SEO SOPs to help you understand how they work.
Example #1: Optimizing New Blog Posts
Many marketers never optimize their articles for SEO. And so, before any blog posts go live, another person, perhaps an SEO expert, should:
Review the target keyword and identify semantic terms to enrich in the copy further. A sole reliance on Google Search Console will only provide you with a list of keywords driving traffic - not strategic semantic terms. As an alternative, you can use Content Fusion to deliver semantic insight automatically, based on a deep-learning algorithm.
(Terms to use in content with the keyword: "things to do in Florida")
Identify potential interlinking opportunities. Again, either manually or using a dedicated platform to reveal such insight.
Ensure correct keyword placement in meta tags and other on-page elements.
Finally, they should repeat the process for every new blog post or other pieces of content.
Example #2: Adding a New Page
When creating a new content asset, the team responsible should follow a simple procedure:
- Identify and analyze the target keyword using relevant keyword and search volume research tools.
- Optimize meta tags, ensuring correct optimization and length.
- Ensure correct canonical tag and schema are being used.
- Add a page to the sitemap.
Example #3. Removing Old Content
In an opposite situation, when taking down existing content, an SEO should always:
- Review target keywords for the content,
- Decide whether to redirect the URL to a similar page or point it to the 404 page,
- Remove the page from the sitemap, and
- Remove any internal links pointing to it.
As you can see, none of these SOPs are long. However, they guarantee that regardless of who works on a specific task, they always complete all relevant actions.
Examples of Common SEO Workflows
Example #1. Analyzing SEO Performance
When assessing how a site performs, an SEO team should:
- Extract traffic by various criteria (i.e. most popular page or source.) This could be done by a junior team member.
- Similarly, they could access and download clicks and impressions data from the Google Search Console or their SEO platform.
- They could use a rank tracking tool to analyze current search positions, again, by various criteria.
- All this data could go to an SEO analyst next, who would analyze and compare the performance with the competition.
- Finally, an SEO strategist would use their insight to identify next actions to take.
Example #2. Fixing Crawlability Issues
This workflow would begin with an SEO analyst evaluating crawling and indexation errors.
From there, the next step is making a list of top priorities. Start by defining an end goal for your organization. What do you hope to accomplish when addressing these errors? Consider the most important pages to address if you're concerned about conversions.
Then, determine which issues will have the least effort and highest value for your SEO. Those tasks should for your top priority for your IT team to attack and eliminate the issues on your site.
Example #3. Updating the Content
This workflow could involve several individuals within your organization – an SEO Analyst, an SEO Manager, a Content Writer, and an Editor.
Here’s how it would go:
- SEO Analyst – identifies under-performing content and content gaps; makes recommendations for improvements.
- SEO Manager – evaluates on-page optimization, approves the process, updates the content on the live site.
- Content Writer – utilizes various tools, identifies specific ways to improve the content and writes new copy.
- Editor – evaluates the new copy. Once approved, the SEO manager will verify if the requirements have been fulfilled with this workflow and push the content to go live.
For each of the above workflows, it's important to define your timeline before getting started. So, in the case of that last example, the workflow could look like this:
Identify under-performing content to improve.
Create a project report.
Approve the project and update on-page content
Identify ways to update the content.
Write new copy.
Evaluate new copy
Update the content on a page
Evaluate on-page optimization and publishing on live site
The Winning SEO Roadmap Formula
I hinted at this at the beginning of this article but given the significance of this to your success in search, it’s worth reiterating here again:
The only way to create an SEO strategy that can help achieve your goals at scale is through consistent application of SOPs and workflows.
That’s how you maximize all the time and effort that goes into SEO while reducing the number of potential errors.
Identifying and implementing SOPs and workflows is just the beginning. Once they are complete, they have to be constantly monitored to assess the quality of outputs.
After all, any process that doesn’t deliver desired results is ultimately nothing more than a distraction.
So, continuously review and improve your SOPs and workflows, paying particular attention to:
- The impact they have on your work. Identify and correct processes that slow down or even hinder your strategies.
- The timing of delivery, particularly for workflows. Some steps might need more time than you’ve allocated to them in the workflow. Measure and adjust them to find the most optimum solution.
- Role relevancy. Sometimes a division of responsibilities in a workflow might look great in theory but work poorly in practice. Monitor and interview everyone involved to see if there’s no role mismatch or their tasks don’t come in wrong order.
How to Use an SEO Roadmap in an Enterprise Organization
Having a fully defined SEO roadmap can be a game changer for any organization, as long as you use it.
I always recommend making the roadmap accessible and easy to understand to all stakeholders, not just the SEOs. This way, you'll reduce the friction your non-SEO colleagues may have from having to understand complex search engine optimization procedures.
A simple spreadsheet detailing all the aspects of the SEO strategy, and listing planned activities per month is, in most cases, the most accessible format to use. Most of the stakeholders will have no problems with using it, and reporting on it will be easy too.
Download the free 2020 SEO roadmap template to use in your organization.
Building a strong SEO roadmap requires identifying and consistent application of standard operating procedures and workflows.
Remember: only when all teams involved in delivering specific SEO projects know what to do, when to do it, and how to be successful, an organization can achieve the highest visibility at a scale.
In this article, I’ve highlighted what these two most crucial elements of a roadmap are. What’s left for you is to start defining and implementing them in your organization.
BONUS: Download the 2020 SEO Roadmap Template to help you plan and devise a winning SEO strategy.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.