There’s no shortage of SEO tasks on your to-do list.
Between UX improvements, content optimizations and new content creation, you have a million directions to turn daily.
The most effective SEOs prioritize their SEO tasks using data to achieve fast results and produce the highest ROI for their efforts.
To help you spend more time on the tasks that matter, we’ve outlined our schedule for analyzing SEO performance and completing essential tasks on a monthly, weekly and daily basis:
SEO Tasks to Prioritize
You’re a marketer with limited time and resources. Unfortunately, competing for SEO authority (especially in crowded markets) requires a lot of time.
So how can you make the most of every minute? Here are the SEO priorities that will help get you to your goals fastest:
- Create a Topic Strategy to Guide Your Efforts
- Ensure Your Website is Indexable
- Monitor and Fix Critical Crawler Issues
- Evaluate Organic Rankings and Traffic
- Optimize Existing Content
- Create New Content to Fill Gaps in Your Topic Strategy
It’s important to note that if you have less aggressive organic traffic goals or limited resources, you may complete these tasks less frequently.
One-Time SEO Tasks
1. Conduct Keyword Research
Start with keywords that most closely align with your product or service, or the pain points your customers experience most often.
Compile all your research into a spreadsheet with search volume and difficulty data to reference later.
While it’s important to do some upfront work, you’ll want to conduct keyword research on an ongoing basis to keep up with new trends and opportunities. But you’ll really only need to create your “Master List” once.
Label which keywords are most important to your business with a tag like “VIP” or “High Priority.” This will help you identify when your most valued keyword rankings change.
In addition to other keyword targets (which I’ll discuss in more detail below), these VIP keywords are the ones you’ll want to monitor regularly since they carry the most traffic potential and are likely to bring in the most qualified leads. For example, if you’re an IT company, one of your VIP keywords is likely “IT services” or “IT solutions.”
2. Define Achievable Keyword Targets
It’s tempting to go after keywords with the highest volume. But targeting highly competitive keywords from the start is like applying for a high-rank position with no experience.
When starting out, you need to prove you’re an authority on a topic before search engines will position you above more relevant and credible websites.
With that said, you’re better off targeting less competitive, longer-tail keywords that you have the potential to rank for.
That way, you stand a chance at driving organic traffic and can start to build domain authority and search engine trust. From there, you can gradually target more competitive keywords.
3. Create a Topic Strategy
Search engines have evolved to understand how words relate — known as topic modeling.
Instead of creating content for individual keywords, each page should represent a unique topic and searcher intent to avoid duplicate content.
When planning your content strategy, think in terms of topics and subtopics. Topics reflect the more competitive, primary keyword you aim to rank for. Based on that topic, you can build subtopic pages that answer related questions to cover the full scope of that topic.
Take the topic “curtains,” for example. A subtopic here could be “how to hang curtains.”
Start with 1-3 topics (or primary keywords), and organize your keywords and subtopics around those to cover all the questions a search could have around that topic.
Thinking in terms of how well you’ve covered a topic rather than keywords will help you produce more helpful content that delivers what users actually want.
Content tools like Blueprint can help you organize topics and subtopics to give you a clear roadmap for SEO success. We use it to build our content strategy, identify internal link opportunities and track performance — all in one place.
4. Document Your Organic Traffic Goals
Forecasting organic traffic isn’t an exact science, but it’s important to be realistic about your goals and understand what it will take to reach them.
For example, if you only have resources to create two new pieces of content per month and live in a competitive industry, it’ll definitely take time to scale organic traffic.
When benchmarking monthly organic traffic, consider the topics you plan to produce each month, their keyword volume and how long it typically takes for your content to rank in search engines.
Setup, Tracking and Technical SEO
5. Install Google Analytics and Search Console on Your Website
Installing Google Analytics (soon to be known as GA4), allows you to track and evaluate organic traffic — a primary metric for organic SEO.
Google Search Console provides additional data, such as clicks and impressions from specific Google search queries to your website and options like submitting a sitemap.
6. Track Your Keywords
To measure your SEO progress, you need ranking software in place. Use tools like Moz or SEMrush to upload your keywords, monitor competitors and see how they change over time.
7. Submit an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap serves as a directory for your website and makes it easy for search engines to crawl your website.
You can quickly create and submit an XML sitemap in Google Search Console.
8. Ensure Your Website Is Indexable
Before your content can rank, search engines need to know about it. Indexing alerts search engines that a page exists so it can be considered in search engine results.
You can check which pages Google is indexing in Search Console. Alternatively, you can submit a Google search that begins with site: followed by your site’s URL. If it returns the webpage in the search results, it’s indexed. If you get nothing back, it is not indexed.
Bear in mind that all of this takes time, so if you recently published a new page, don’t panic if you don’t see it in search results right away. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (or more) for Google to crawl a new page on your site.
9. Install an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates add a layer of security to your website through encryption. Installing a certificate takes your website from HTTP to HTTPS.
When added, you’ll see a lock icon in the address bar to show website visitors that your site is secure.
10. Crawl Your Website
SEO tools like Moz can crawl your website and expose metadata issues that could be harming your SEO potential, including missing metadata, 404 errors and more.
11. Identify and Fix Major Crawler Errors
Your crawl report could reveal hundreds of issues. It won’t make sense to fix everything immediately. Address issues for your more important web pages — including your homepage.
Make a plan to continually fix errors so these efforts don’t interfere with higher SEO priorities.
12. Optimize Meta Tags for Your Topic Strategy
Now that you have target keywords defined for your core website, you need to reflect those on your website. Meta tags help search engines like Google read and understand a web page’s content and structure.
To help create this structure across your site, ensure your homepage, services pages and other important pages include their respective target keywords in the following places:
- Page title
- Meta description
- H1 (a.k.a Title Tags)
- At least one H2 (a.k.a Heading Tags)
- Image alt text
- URL (for new pages)
13. Measure Website Uptime and Page Speed
Speed and availability are critical SEO factors because they impact the user experience.
Additionally, website performance tools like Pingdom can reveal your website uptime and point you to critical issues.
14. Check Your Mobile Friendliness Score
Search engines like Google prioritize mobile first. Google’s mobile-friendliness tool can rate your website and alert you with issues you need to fix.
Monthly SEO Checklist
1. Update Your Topic Strategy
Your topic strategy is a blueprint for your SEO efforts.
Regularly review your most important topics and subtopics, and find new content opportunities that answer common questions your target audience might have.
See what your competitors are writing about and connect with your sales or customer service departments to tap into frequently asked questions. Use search volume data to validate topics and subtopics, and add them to your strategy.
2. Evaluate Rankings and Featured Snippets
Monitor your existing keyword rankings monthly for major upward or downward movements.
Take note of top keywords that have lost or gained position 1-3 or page 1 rankings.
It’s also important to document featured snippet opportunities and work them into your content optimization plan accordingly.
3. Review Organic Traffic Trends
Look at month-over-month (MoM) and year-over-year (YoY) organic traffic trends to identify pages that are slipping in traffic and should be improved.
Routinely review your highest-trafficked pages. If you notice a drop in rankings for your core keywords or consistent decline in week-over-week organic traffic, flag those pages to investigate further.
4. Investigate Behavioral Performance
Metrics like organic traffic and rankings are direct measures of your SEO performance.
However, search engines are constantly taking in new data to better determine which pages best answer a search query and surface those higher in SERPs. Enter behavioral data.
Sort your content by behavioral metrics like engaged sessions, engagement rate, engaged sessions per user and average engagement time.
These metrics gauge how users interact with your content and whether improvements could be made to motivate readers to click through or spend more time on the page.
5. Conduct a Competitor Analysis
See if competitors have encroached on your top keywords, produced new and similar content, earned more backlinks or increased their Moz domain authority score. A competitor audit helps you uncover opportunities for improvement.
6. Monitor Linking Domains
The number and quality of websites that link to yours matters. And while link building can be a tedious process, each incoming link is a vote of authority for your website.
Document the number and quantity of backlinking domains to your website (and your competitors’), and continually aim to increase these.
7. Plan and Prioritize Your SEO Tasks
Now that you’ve gathered some data, it’s time to prioritize your SEO tasks.
Based on the checks above, your SEO priorities will look drastically different than someone else’s.
When compiling the most important SEO tasks to focus on, take note of:
- Content to optimize: Which content is on the cusp of page 1 and could use improvement? Which high-priority pages are slipping in organic rankings and traffic?
- Critical crawler warnings (example: 404 errors or missing page titles for major pages)
- New content creation: Defer to your topic strategy and gaps in topic coverage. Prioritize new content creation based on search potential for keywords and their purchase intent (or likelihood to draw in potential customers).
Use a content calendar to distill your SEO priorities into an actionable plan with due dates.
Daily and Weekly SEO Task List
1. Optimize Existing Content
Search algorithms want to see users reading and engaging with your content.
Instead of starting from scratch, focus on improving the content you’ve already created.
Optimizing content typically takes less time than producing new content. Plus, you generate traffic faster by bumping existing content from page 2 to page 1 rather than developing a new piece of content.
Routinely review your most qualified pages (those that drive more leads and customers) and content ranking in positions 3-6.
See who’s outranking you and compare your topic coverage, content structure and overall depth to determine why. Make improvements so your page better serves the intent of that search topic.
Read our complete guide to content optimization.
2. Create Context-Rich Content
Of course, writing content is a time-intensive but necessary process.
To become a subject matter expert and search authority on a topic, you need to address the full scope of questions and considerations that a searcher may have.
Prioritize new content to fill major gaps in your topic cluster strategy. Focus on the topics that have the highest search volume and intent to purchase.
Looking for more tips? Check out our Guide to Writing SEO-Friendly Content.
3. Evaluate Content Quality and Remove Low-Quality Pages
If you have an aging site, chances are there are dozens — even hundreds — of pages that don’t serve a purpose anymore.
Don’t ignore these pages.
Having a high percentage of pages that don’t generate traffic or engagement signals that your content is low value, which could make it harder for your other pages to rank.
Keep a running list of your webpages. If they aren’t producing traffic or ranking for anything relevant, consider 301-redirecting them to a stronger page, or optimizing the content to better serve readers.
Over time, you should aim to have a clear, documented purpose for each webpage.
4. Monitor Weekly Rankings
Movements in organic rankings and traffic directly reflect the quality of your content and domain authority.
Assuming you have the tools in place to measure organic rankings and traffic, checking in on these metrics is an essential SEO task.
Monitor weekly and monthly ranking and traffic trends to:
- Identify and prioritize content optimization opportunities
- Measure how well your content is performing
- Spot trends in content topics that are more popular (higher organic traffic) or more engaging (better engagement and conversion rates)
5. Review Crawl Reports and Fix Critical Issues
Set up weekly crawl reports so you can stay on top of crawler issues and quickly address critical errors.
Managing SEO isn't for the faint of heart. Producing helpful content, monitoring performance and keeping ahead of constant algorithm changes is a labor of love.
At Human, we help clients define and execute the best weekly and monthly SEO task list to achieve their organic goals.