SEO is a discipline that requires strategy and specific tactics over time to be successful.
While audits and one-time optimizations can have some impact on organic positions, it is hard to find sustainable rankings, organic traffic, and conversion goal growth without some level of ongoing commitment.
At a basic level, we know that search engines – especially Google – are constantly changing and adjusting the signals and variables in their algorithms.
Sometimes we know what is coming and can plan for it if announced. In most cases, however, we don’t know about any algorithmic changes beforehand.
Whenever we see a change in position, visibility, or traffic – either due to a change made by a search engine or due to something your competitor has done – we’re are forced to be reactive.
But you must never forget the importance of being proactive in SEO.
What follows are some of the most crucial daily, monthly, quarterly, and yearly SEO tasks you must pay attention to as part of a solid ongoing maintenance or management plan.
Stay in the Industry Loop
A critical aspect of SEO that must be built into any maintenance or ongoing management plan is staying up to date on industry news.
This ranges from the mission-critical alerts and updates that are announced by the search engines themselves to keeping tabs on SEO best practices and breaking news from sources like Search Engine Journal.
While big shifts in the industry are hard to miss, the smaller and more subtle changes are those that can become magnified if missed and practices become outdated.
Know Your Current Metrics
If you’re a brand, rely on ecommerce transactions, or lead volume to feed a sales team, you likely have the volume that real-time or at least daily monitoring is necessary of key SEO performance metrics.
Even if you don’t have critical metrics or those that would change enough to necessitate an immediate reaction, you should at least monitor KPIs on a weekly basis.
Knowing how your website is performing in search through top-level metrics is important for recognizing any red flags. Red flags can be anything from a specific or aggregate positioning drop, an organic traffic drop, or a decrease in sales or lead volume.
Being able to recognize problems as soon as they happen is key in being able to diagnose issues and reverse it before it becomes a trend that has a negative impact on your overall marketing and business goals.
Make Progress on Tactics
A solid SEO plan or campaign has goals, a strategy, and specific tactics outlined to be successful.
The daily process should include specific tasks, milestones, and achievable actions that work toward the bigger picture.
The tactics can include things being done for the first time in a phased approach or action items that are more in a rinse and repeat methodology.
Regardless, the list of specific technical, on-page, and off-page action items should be defined for the year, broken out into months, and further into tactics and progress that can be made on a daily basis to stay on track.
SEO requires both big-picture thinking and the ability to tackle the detail work in the day to day tasks and action items that add up.
Report on Performance
Beyond the daily or weekly KPI monitoring, it is often important to use monthly cycles to report on performance more broadly.
The focus of monthly checkpoints allows for dedicated time to compare a larger sample size of data and see trends.
Monthly performance reporting should include year over year comparisons of the completed month plus any available year to date stats.
Any stories of the what and why for deviations in goal, celebrations for exceeding goals, and metrics that warrant possible changes to the plan are critical to surface and prioritize through a dashboard or snapshot report of the performance data.
Recap Completed & Continuing Action Items
This is a chance to evaluate the tactics and execution in the previous month against the plan.
- Was everything completed?
- Were there deviations?
- What obstacles or roadblocks were in the way or overcome?
Looking at the past helps shape the future and when combining the action items and tactics with the performance data, we can get a closer picture of the reality of what is driving SEO performance overall.
Plan Next Month’s Action Items & Evaluate the Plan
Monthly intervals are great for ensuring accountability for completion of tasks. Even when the year is planned out, things change in SEO and performance isn’t always what we expect after doing something the first time.
Taking a monthly planning approach, adjustments can be made to the plan like doubling down on a specific tactic or adjusting the overall strategy to recalibrate.
By being agile enough to monthly evaluate performance and tactics, you can avoid overthinking things and reacting too swiftly, but also not let too much time pass and lose footing with trends toward goals.
Technical Issues Auditing
Assuming you have covered technical issues at the beginning of your SEO focus and are also watching for any that trigger red flags in daily and weekly monitoring, it is important to take a broader look through an audit each quarter.
This audit should include a review of reported issues in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Plus, comparison to benchmarks and standards for site speed, mobile usability, validation of structured data, and the aspects that aren’t often looked at on a more frequent basis.
On-Page Issues Auditing
Without an audit process and even with frequent monitoring, things happen on websites.
A code update, a plugin/extension update, or publishing content can cause duplicate tags, duplicate content, or even missing on-page elements.
A quarterly audit of on-page issues that can be conducted using a wide range of free and subscription third-party tools is important. There are tools that will even send alerts and factor into the daily process if something changes like a meta description being wiped out.
Regardless, having a solid tools stack and process for quarterly evaluation and comparison to the previous audit important to ensure that the results of the audit and any fixes needed are noted and make it into the tactical plan.
Link Profile Auditing
The SEO plan overall likely includes some form of link building. Whether that is through attracting links with engaging content or a more focused plan of research and outreach, it is likely a part of the ongoing tactics.
The investment of time and effort into the tactics makes it important to have visibility of the overall link profile. This might be a performance metric tracked in the monthly reporting phase, but quarterly should be audited in a deeper sense.
Evaluating the quality of links, quantity of links, diversity of sources, relevancy of linked content, comparisons to competitors, comparisons to benchmarks, and period-over-period comparisons are all important aspects to ensure that the plan is performing as intended in the area of backlinks.
Plus, if not caught through daily or monthly efforts, any spammy links or negative SEO attempts can be caught here and addressed through the disavow process.
Local Listings Audit
Once local listings management is in maintenance mode, there won’t be a frequent need for major changes with NAP (name, address, phone) data or inconsistencies in listing data. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen and that it can be “set it and forget it.”
An audit using third party tools to ensure accuracy and consistency of data is strongly advised at least quarterly.
This audit can identify issues that can be addressed on a one-off basis as well as provide guidance on performance and any needed changes to the content, reviews, and other aspects of the listings themselves beyond the basic NAP data.
When running annual plans for SEO – and even when not on annual agreements or evaluation cycles – taking an entire year of data and evaluating it is helpful to advise strategy and find measurable ROI calculations.
SEO is a long-term process to achieve the most competitive positioning possible in the search engines. It is a valuable investment of time to look at performance data over 12-month spans, compare it to previous periods, look at benchmarks, and celebrate successes.
Planning Strategy & Tactics
In addition to reviewing yearly performance data, you should also be planning out your goals, strategy, and tactics for the next year.
Even though the plan could change a week into maintenance, having a plan, and setting a target is a key to measuring progress.
Without a plan and using past learnings and a realistic view of the resources being invested in the coming year, there can be a gap between expectations and reality. It is best to sort this out before getting months down the road.
The maintenance and ongoing SEO management steps for success can sometimes vary in frequency and importance for different brands, agencies, and organizations.
However, the need to have a well-defined and structured process that incorporates the must-have checklist items is a key to being organized and working toward goals.
Without a solid plan and checklist, there can be too much agility or floating around chasing the shiny object, news, or tactics of choice in a given week, month, quarter, or year.
With the nature of SEO being a longer-term discipline than other marketing channels, keeping focus is paramount to success.
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