How to Create an SEO Roadmap
Even if you already have a strong foundation for SEO, you need a plan that will allow you to track your goals, eliminate errors and scale.
What you need is an SEO roadmap.
In this guide, you’re going to learn what that is, and the elements that make up an effective one. After that, you’ll find some templates you can use to create roadmaps of your own easily..
What is an SEO roadmap?
An SEO roadmap is a strategic document that lays out all the SEO tasks that will be performed for a project. Roadmaps are a great client deliverable for laying out what you are going to do in an easy-to-read format.
In addition to providing a timeline, these documents also provide the process for resolving errors and decision-making obstacles along the way.
A roadmap can look something like this:
They can be as simple or as complex as you like (providing you actually use it). There are many advantages to having a document like this on hand. When developed properly, they:
- Allow clients, vendors and other team members to understand the greater plan easily
- Provide guidance about where to scale up
- Keep strategy consistent and transparent even in the face of staff turnover
These plans help ensure the continuity of the project. However, that only happens when they’re built correctly.
Let’s look at some of the ways that you can perfect your SEO roadmap.
What should you include in your SEO roadmap?
Every SEO roadmap will be different because every project will have unique factors. What matters for all of them is that they’re simple and easy to understand.
What goes into your marketing roadmap really depends on your service offering. Here are some SEO tasks to consider:
- Website essentials
- Technical SEO
- Content optimization (+ content audit results)
- UX & conversion rate optimisation
- Link building
- Local SEO
- SEO benchmarking
- Quick wins
- Topic and keyword research
Remember, these are only suggestions. You’ll need to customize them a bit for your needs. For now, let’s go into a little more detail about what each one means in our roadmap.
Website essentials are the standard optimization practices that apply to almost any website. If you don’t complete these fundamental steps, you’ll struggle to rank highly (if at all) in search engines.
- Getting verified by Google Search Console
- Installing google tag manager
- Configuring robots.txt
- Configuring site maps
- Performing audits to determine technical and content needs
Most of these items would be early essentials. If these items were tasks in an SEO roadmap, they might appear early on like in the example below.
Most of these steps are only necessary for fresh new websites. You can start with the audits if you are working on an established site. Audits will often reveal problems. That’s why technical solutions are an important part of most campaigns.
Your roadmap should include a series of technical checks and tests near the beginning of the project. Technical site errors can block all progress toward any SEO goal, so they should be considered a priority.
A well-developed roadmap will also include follow-up audits to determine if changes to the site have introduced any new errors. It will spell out the schedule for new audits and the process that will be used to correct them.
Here are some examples of technical processes that may need attention in the roadmap.
After technical SEO has been accounted for, the next priority is often content.
Content optimisation (+ content audit results)
Content refers to all of the messaging on your website, including the content in titles, body paragraphs, and anchors.
Roadmaps are very helpful for deploying content because they can give you a simple overview of what topics you’re covering, and at what velocity you are publishing.
This is an example of an area where a plan to scale can matter quite a bit. If you need to double or triple the amount of content you’re producing, are you going to be able to keep the project on track? Your roadmap will help you do that.
Here are some other examples of content tasks that could be covered:
Content will be a high-priority in most SEO strategies, but it can’t compensate for a site that offers an awful user experience. If your client’s website is something only a mother could love, UX work deserves a place of priority in your roadmap.
UX & conversion rate optimization (CRO)
User experience (UX) is a rough measure of how your website treats the humans who land on it.
Sites with good UX are easy on the eyes. There are no obvious image errors. They load quickly and they’re easy to navigate.
Broken images, browser/mobile incompatibilities, and confusing navigation are all considered to be bad UX.
UX matters a lot. While Google only has a limited ability to understand what a human sees, they can very easily detect when searchers bounce off a result in just a few seconds. If you aren’t serving searchers, you aren’t going to keep ranking.
Google deploys a small army of their own human searchers, anyway. There’s no escaping from the priority of UX.
Many campaigns will need to consider tasks to:
- Perform design audit of all pages and document broken or badly-implemented features
- Review and streamline navigation
- Installing apps like Hotjar to create heat maps of user behavior
- Review and implement heatmap data insights on a recurring basis
Conversion rate optimization refers to the process where you remove obstacles in the sales funnel until all of the elements of the page work toward conversion.
This can involve many different tasks, including:
- Split test branding, design, and CTAs
- Minimize clicks to reach forms or frequently sought information
- Make addresses and phone numbers clickable
- Review and implement conversion insights on a recurring basis
Any plans that you have to improve the user experience should be listed and paced as part of your SEO roadmap. In most cases, you’ll want to keep these close to the beginning so that content strategies can launch properly.
Another area that’s going to matter for most campaigns is link building.
Link building refers to the process of creating links back to your website on other sites. Link quality and relevance is a major factor in the Domain Authority (DA) of your site.
DA is a score that Moz invented to attempt to understand Google’s secretive process. Points are awarded to sites based on certain metrics. When you can improve your score, it often translates to immediate search engine improvements.
Low authority can prevent you from ranking for certain topics or from climbing the SERPs at all.
Most roadmaps need to space any new links built out over a reasonable amount of time. A comprehensive link building plan might include:
After link building, you’ll want to focus on how you can enhance local SEO to compete for local searches and leads.
Local SEO refers to the set of strategies that target local searches. These searches are customized to the area they’re sent from, and independent from global search ranks.
The “Snack Pack” dominates local searches, and getting into it is the goal of most local strategies. It’s a walled garden of results that is separated from the others.
Here’s how the pack appears for the search “Vancouver auto glass repair”:
Local optimization often involves link and content-focused strategies to clarify the geographic context of the client’s business. This may include campaigns to:
(If your site doesn’t serve a local area, obviously this part of a roadmap is not needed.)
Like most things in SEO, local strategies take a lot of time. That’s why benchmarking is vital for tracking your results and communicating your value.
SEO benchmarking refers to your tracking of any metrics that you’ve set for yourself. It doesn’t require an example because it will need to be done in all phases.
Part of the business side of SEO is showing your client that your work is having an effect. That means you may want to have a process in place to track:
- Rank across a number of topics and searches
- Traffic over time
- The velocity of new links built (deliberate and earned)
- Time spent on site
If your work is having a positive effect anywhere, you should find some way to showcase it. It’s also important that you be able to plant quick wins throughout a plan.
Quick wins are tasks that have a predictable effect and can be deployed quickly. They are part of the psychology of delivering SEO services. The most effective techniques can take months to work, so you need to think tactically with quick wins.
That can mean tasks like these:
- Applying missing basic optimizations such as metadata
- Resolving site errors
- Applying recent best practices such as mandatory mobile readiness
When a site is missing basic optimizations, technical updates can lead to some sudden and impressive improvements. If the site has no link profile, even modest new links can create impressive trend lines.
It’s the long term effects that will really make your reputation, though. That’s why most roadmaps will require you to stake out topics and keywords.
Topic and keyword research
Topic and keyword research is done to determine the proper focus of a website.
Topics are the types of information covered by the website. If a website was focused on attracting auto glass repair sales, the content might focus on topics like the cost of replacing auto glass, the legality of driving with broken glass, and the time it takes to replace auto glass.
Topic tasks include:
- Researching topics associated with seed topics
- Auditing the variety of topics already on the site
- Deploying new content to change the topic balance
- Tracking the SEO performance of new topic pages
Keyword research covers any insights into the exact wording searchers are using to describe topics. Keyword research is necessary to cover a topic authentically. This research often relies on one of several well-known tools such as Ahrefs or SEMRush.
Possible tasks include:
- Performing initial research to determine missing opportunities
- Scheduling keyword updates for new or existing content
- Testing the implementation of keywords
How do you create a roadmap? (Hint: use this SEO roadmap template)
There is no right or wrong way to build out a roadmap. What matters is what it communicates at a glance. Here’s a simple template you can use to rapidly build out attractive SEO roadmaps.
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Follow your map to success
Now you know what an SEO roadmap is and what goes into a great one. The one you build will need to be completely customized for your needs, but now you have the insight and example you need to build one.