Behind every successful campaign is a well-crafted strategy. Learn how to build a proper SEO plan to drive the results your business needs.
Here, you’ll find:
- What an SEO plan is
- Benefits of an SEO plan
- How to create an SEO plan
- Common SEO plan mistakes
- A customizable SEO plan checklist
Building visibility for your brand is as easy as adding keywords to your website and watching your rankings soar…right? Not quite.
You need a full-fledged SEO strategy to make your website rank consistently. And this requires knowing how to build an SEO plan with all the right components to make it executable.
If you’ve never built an SEO plan before, then you’ll find this guide helpful.
What is an SEO plan?
A solid SEO plan is a set of actions that incorporate technical SEO, content, and off-page SEO efforts to ensure you’re improving all aspects of your website to increase its rankings in Google search. It’s a digital marketing strategy that uses content marketing and user experience (UX) optimization to appeal to people and search engines.
“I often think about it like human health,” says Madison Scherner, SEO manager at HawkSEM. “Cardio, diet, and strength training are all important and should all be incorporated into a health plan. But depending on needs and lifestyle, some categories may be more advantageous than others.”
SEO success, she adds, takes time, a bird’s eye view, and daily effort.
Benefits of an SEO plan
Implementing a well-structured search engine optimization plan offers numerous benefits for your online presence. By optimizing your website for search engines, you can:
- Drive targeted traffic: An effective SEO plan improves your website’s organic visibility, attracting relevant visitors who are actively searching for your products or services. This targeted traffic increases the likelihood of conversions and business growth.
- Increase brand awareness: Higher search engine rankings increase your brand’s visibility. When your website appears on the first page of organic search results, it generates trust and credibility among users, leading to improved brand recognition.
- Achieve long-term results: Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, which requires continuous investment, SEO focuses on long-term strategies. Once your website ranks well for targeted keywords, you can enjoy ongoing benefits (e.g., high click-through rates) without additional advertising costs.
- Enhance user experience: An SEO plan involves optimizing various aspects of your website, including its speed, mobile-friendliness, and user interface. These improvements not only satisfy search engine requirements, but also enhance the overall user experience, resulting in higher engagement and lower bounce rates.
- Gain competitive advantage: In today’s digital landscape, competition is fierce. By implementing an SEO plan, you can stay ahead of your competitors by outranking them in search results, attracting more customers, and establishing your brand as an industry leader.
- Improve conversion rates: Targeted traffic, combined with SEO content and user experience, increases the likelihood of conversions. When your website appears in front of the right audience and provides valuable information, it encourages visitors to take desired actions, such as making a purchase or filling out a contact form.
How to create an SEO plan
To create an effective SEO plan, you need to follow a systematic approach that encompasses multiple steps and strategies. Here’s a breakdown of the key components.
1. Conduct thorough research
Before implementing your SEO plan, conduct thorough research. This involves:
Conducting a website audit: Evaluate your website’s performance, user experience, and technical aspects, such as site speed and mobile responsiveness. Identify and fix any issues that may hinder search engine crawling or user engagement.
Analyzing competitor websites and link-building strategies: Research your competitors’ SEO strategies, keywords they target, and backlink profiles. This analysis provides valuable insights into their strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to identify opportunities to differentiate and outperform them in search rankings.
Identifying and targeting relevant keywords: Use keyword research tools like Google Search Console to identify a list of keywords with high search volume and low competition. Focus on long-tail keywords that align with your target audience’s search intent. For instance, if you’re using local SEO to drive foot traffic to your store, then you should include location-specific search terms in your web pages (e.g., electrical services in Los Angeles).
“SEO managers identify keywords by truly understanding the target audience and sales funnel of a company,” explains Scherner. “Asking questions that define your target audience and recreate their search history. Half of the battle is matching the content to the search intent of the keyword. Meeting the consumer where they are in their discovery journey is the most powerful way to capture any audience, not just organic.”
Pro tip: You can use a tool like Semrush to analyze competitor websites and uncover their most successful backlinks.
2. Set specific goals
To ensure the success of your SEO plan, it’s important to set specific and measurable goals. This involves:
Defining specific and measurable goals
Set goals, such as increasing organic traffic by 3%, improving search rankings by February for target keywords, or boosting conversions by 10%. Ensure your goals are realistic, achievable, and aligned with your overall marketing objectives. Specific goals provide clarity and help you track your progress effectively.
Setting realistic timelines for achieving goals
Break down your goals into smaller milestones with specific deadlines. Regularly track your progress and make necessary adjustments to stay on track. By setting realistic timelines, you can make steady progress toward your SEO goals.
According to a survey by Search Engine Journal, here’s what companies will focus on most in their SEO strategies:
- User experience (34.7%)
- Content production (27.2%)
- On-page optimization (26.9%)
- Search intent for pages (25.7%
- Link building (20.9%)
- Lead generation (20.8%)
3. Perform on-page optimization
On-page SEO involves optimizing various website elements to improve its visibility in search engine results. Here are some best practices.
Optimize website structure and navigation
Ensure a logical and user-friendly website structure with clear navigation. Optimize internal linking to improve crawlability and distribute link equity. A well-structured and easy-to-navigate website enhances the user experience and helps search engines understand your content better.
It’s also ideal to include internal links within blog posts and web pages. Make sure the anchor text for the links are relevant to the page they’re pointing to.
Improve website speed and mobile responsiveness
Optimize images, minify code, and leverage caching techniques to improve website loading speed. For example, you can use browser caching to load web pages faster and reduce server load.
It’s also ideal to use a responsive website design to ensure a seamless user experience across all devices. Tools you can use to test your website speed include Google PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, and Pingdom.
Optimizing meta tags, headings, and URLs
Craft compelling meta descriptions and page titles that include target keywords and entice users to click. Use descriptive headings (H1, H2, etc.) to structure every piece of content and improve readability. Create SEO-friendly URLs that are concise, descriptive, and include relevant keywords.
“Choosing a singular keyword to target across metadata and headings is more fruitful than targeting an umbrella of keywords half-hazard,” advises Scherner. Also, don’t forget to add alt text to your images for accessibility. This way, your text description appears if the photo doesn’t load on a visitor’s screen.
Create high-quality and keyword-rich content
SEO won’t go far without content your audience wants to devour. You can create this by focusing on:
- Developing informative, engaging, in-depth, and shareable content that aligns with user search intent. For example, content that answers searchers’ questions and addresses common pain points helps build trust and loyalty.
- Incorporating target search terms naturally throughout the content, including in headings, subheadings, and body text
- Using relevant multimedia elements, like images and videos, to enhance the content
- Crafting new content regularly to keep your audience engaged in topics they care about
“Using bullet points, visuals, headers, and subheaders are great ways to break up long overwhelming text and get the user to understand/interact with the content easier,” adds Scherner.
4. Perform off-page optimization
Off-page optimization involves activities that take place outside of your website to improve its visibility and authority in search engine rankings.
Here are some best practices for off-page SEO.
Build high-quality backlinks from relevant websites
Backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites can boost your search engine rankings. To build high-quality backlinks, consider the following strategies:
- Identify authoritative websites in your industry and reach out for guest blogging opportunities or link collaborations. Guest blogging allows you to contribute valuable content to other websites while including a backlink to your own site.
- Create valuable and shareable content that naturally attracts backlinks from other websites. When you produce high-quality content that provides value to readers, other websites are more likely to link to it.
- Monitor your backlink profile and disavow any low-quality or spammy backlinks that may negatively impact your website’s SEO. Regularly review the websites linking to your site and disavow any links from low-quality or irrelevant sources.
Engage in social media marketing and content promotion
Social media platforms provide an opportunity to reach millions of online users. But only if you know how to get their attention on these platforms.
Here’s how you can leverage social media for off-page optimization:
- Share your content on social media platforms to increase visibility and encourage engagement. Create social media profiles for your brand and regularly share your blog posts, articles, videos, and other valuable content.
- Engage with your audience by responding to comments, messages, and mentions. Actively participate in relevant industry discussions and provide valuable insights and information.
- Collaborate with influencers and industry experts to amplify your content’s reach. Partnering with influencers or experts in your niche can help you reach a wider audience and attract more backlinks and social shares.
Monitor and manage your online reputation
Maintaining a positive online reputation is crucial for your brand’s credibility and search engine rankings. Here’s how you can manage your online reputation effectively.
- Regularly monitor online mentions and reviews of your brand. Set up Google Alerts or use social media monitoring tools to stay updated on what people are saying about your brand.
- Address any negative feedback promptly and proactively. Respond to negative reviews or comments in a professional and helpful manner, demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction.
- Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews and testimonials. Positive reviews can help counterbalance any negative feedback and improve your brand’s reputation.
5. Don’t forget technical SEO
Believe it or not–what goes on behind the curtain of your website can impact its visibility and performance. Here are some key aspects of technical SEO to consider:
Provide proper website indexing and crawlability
To ensure search engines can discover and index your website’s pages effectively, there are two things you can do.
- Submit an XML sitemap to search engines to help them understand the structure of your website and index its pages more efficiently. An XML sitemap acts as a roadmap for search engines, guiding them to all the important pages on your site.
- Use robots.txt files to control search engine crawling and prevent indexing of irrelevant or duplicate content. The robots.txt file tells search engine bots which pages and directories to crawl and which ones to exclude.
Implement structured data markup for enhanced search visibility
Structured data markup provides additional context to search engines about your content, helping them understand and present it more effectively in search results.
Here’s how you can implement it:
- Use schema markup to provide search engines with structured data about your website’s content. Schema markup helps search engines understand the type of content on your site, such as articles, events, products, and more.
- Implement rich snippets to enhance your website’s appearance in search engine results pages (SERPs). Rich snippets add extra information, such as star ratings, reviews, and images, to your search listings, making them more appealing and informative.
Optimize website for voice search and mobile-first indexing
As voice search and mobile usage continue to rise, optimizing your website for these trends is essential. Here’s what you can do:
- Optimize your content for voice search queries by focusing on natural language and long-tail keywords. Voice searches tend to be more conversational, so optimizing your content with question-based queries and long-tail keywords can boost your appearance in voice search results.
- Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive to provide a seamless experience for mobile users. Mobile-first indexing means search engines prioritize the mobile version of your website when determining search rankings. Ensure your website is optimized for mobile devices and loads quickly on mobile platforms.
6. Develop a content calendar and publishing schedule
To execute an SEO plan effectively, you need a content calendar and publishing schedule. This cclets you plan and organize your content creation efforts, ensuring a consistent and strategic approach. By creating a content calendar, you can map out the topics, formats, and timelines for your content production.
For instance, if you’re running a blog, you can use a content calendar to schedule weekly blog posts, ensuring a steady stream of fresh content for your readers. By determining the frequency (every Monday) and the timing (at 9 am) you establish a predictable publishing schedule your audience can rely on.
7. Use monitoring and reporting
Track keyword rankings, organic traffic, website analytics, and user behavior for valuable insight of your website performance. Then you can make data-driven decisions to improve its visibility and engagement.
Popular SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz provide comprehensive keyword tracking features. You can input your target keywords and regularly check their rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google Analytics is another powerful tool that provides detailed insights into your website’s organic traffic. It allows you to analyze metrics, such as the number of sessions, pageviews, bounce rate, and average session duration. By examining these KPIs (key performance indicators), you can identify pages receiving high traffic and those requiring optimization.
Analyzing website analytics and user behavior also identifies pages with high bounce rates or low conversion rates. These pages may indicate areas where users aren’t finding the information they need or where the user experience can be improved.
For example, maybe you notice a high bounce rate on a specific landing page. By analyzing user behavior, you may discover the page has a slow load time or lacks relevant information. Improving its loading speed, adding more engaging content, or optimizing the call-to-action could reduce the bounce rate and improve user engagement.
8. Incorporate continuous optimization
If you’re not optimizing your site continuously, then you won’t find new ways to improve your outcomes. To ensure the effectiveness of your SEO efforts:
- Monitor algorithm updates and industry trends
- Conduct regular website audits and performance reviews
- Make necessary adjustments and optimizations based on data.
Let’s explore these practices in more detail.
Monitoring algorithm updates and industry trends
Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, and staying updated on these changes is crucial for maintaining a strong SEO strategy. By keeping an eye on algorithm updates, you can adapt your SEO tactics to align with the latest ranking factors and guidelines.
For instance, if a search engine releases an algorithm update that prioritizes mobile-friendly websites, you can adjust your strategy to ensure your website is optimized for mobile devices.
Similarly, if you notice a growing trend in voice search, you can optimize your content to target voice search queries and capture that traffic.
Conducting regular website audits and performance reviews
Regular website audits help identify technical issues or areas for improvement that may impact your SEO performance. By conducting audits, you can uncover issues such as:
- Broken links
- Slow page load times
- Duplicate content
- Poor site structure
For example, during a website audit, you may discover that your website has a high number of 404 error pages. By identifying and fixing these broken links, you can improve user experience and ensure search engines can crawl and index your pages effectively.
Making necessary adjustments and optimizations based on data
Data-driven decision-making is a key to continuous optimization. Reviewing insights gathered from monitoring and reporting tools can identify areas for improvement, so you can make data-driven optimizations. This may involve adjusting keyword targeting, optimizing on-page SEO elements, improving website speed, or enhancing user experience.
For example, if your monitoring and reporting indicate certain keywords aren’t driving the right traffic, you can adjust your keyword targeting strategy by researching and incorporating more relevant keywords.
Common SEO plan mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes we see beginners and businesses make is building and executing an SEO plan without the knowledge of SEO best practices to do so effectively. According to Scherner, this often leads to mistakes like:
- Not setting realistic goalposts
- Not putting enough hours into research before starting
- Thinking about SEO midway through a website redesign
- Following the plan to a T
“I often see businesses make a plan and then struggle to get the content or item tackled because they’re held up by how something is worded or in minute detail,” shares Scherner. “If it’s taking too much time, skip it and apply all of the other changes while discussing the one hangup.”
For example, stop checking rankings weekly, in some cases, even monthly. Look quarter over quarter. Take any industry seasonality into account. If you sell Christmas sweaters, you can’t expect June to be as good as November.
Recommended tools to execute SEO plan
When it comes to executing an SEO plan, having the right tools can make a significant difference. Here are some recommended tools that can help you effectively implement your SEO strategy.
According to our SEO expert, Semrush and Ahrefs are the lifeblood of SEO. Semrush is known for its position-tracking capabilities, making it ideal for monitoring keyword rankings and tracking progress over time. On the other hand, Ahrefs provides excellent backlink and competitor data, allowing you to analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles and gain insights into their SEO strategies.
For site crawls and technical analysis, Scherner recommends using Screaming Frog. This tool allows you to crawl your website and identify any technical issues that may affect your SEO performance.
“In my opinion, experience is the best SEO tool you could have.” While tools provide valuable data and graphs, the interpretation and next steps should come from an experienced SEO professional who can effectively respond to the data.
At HawkSEM, we not only have a team of seasoned SEO experts who can understand data and what to do with it — we also have our own proprietary software, ConversionIQ, that pulls the right data from your campaigns to guide our decisions and content strategies.
Crafting an effective SEO plan is necessary if you want to improve your brand’s visibility and organic traffic. But it requires the right tools, strategy, and skills to make it work.
Without experience, businesses can potentially waste money and time on their SEO efforts without seeing any results.
If you need expert guidance, HawkSEM can create an SEO plan and, if needed, we’ll execute it for you. Reach out to our experts today for a free consultation.
SEO plan checklist
Here’s an SEO plan checklist you can use as a template to guide your strategies:
Remember, this checklist is a general guideline, and it’s important to customize it based on your specific needs and goals. If you’d like a more detailed explanation of our planning process, our SEO team would be happy to develop an SEO plan for your business.