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SEO Roadmap & Strategy: Getting Aligned With Product Development

SEO roadmaps are very important for an in-house SEO. They are the basis for task prioritization, seeing how things fit into the grand scheme, and they give you a broad understanding of which projects you want to push. The best part is, you now have the ability to match up your roadmap to the product development roadmap 1:1 (one for one). Some of the examples I use will be fairly vague, purposefully so, because it’s more about the type of project and not that name.

What are your quick wins?

Quick wins are a great way to make progress on already existing infrastructure problems that can be solved fairly quickly with minimal development resources. An example of a quick win project could be “Fixing Title Tags for XYZ section” or “Apply canonical link tag to duplicate content.”

The purpose of a quick win is to get in the door, make some changes, and get some traction on your efforts right away. If you can improve upon indexing of content, traffic, or rankings within the first couple months, you’ll instantly garner more respect within the organization and people will start looking at your bigger projects more seriously. Not only that, but, you may even be looked at to lead company wide initiatives for traffic and user acquisition.

Align big projects in product

Now that you have a list of quick wins on the roadmap, it’s time to start thinking about the major issues, clean up projects, and/or big wins that you are going to want to tackle throughout the year. “Fix Architecture Sitewide” could be an example of something that is major. Even “URL Canonicalization and Relevancy Cleanup” would be an example of a large undertaking at some companies. Projects like this are going to be big ticket winners for you from an on-page SEO perspective, and allow you to start doing things that move the needle.

Other things to look at in big projects are the things that I call “blockers.” These are projects that need to be done in order for you to make an progress from a link building, internal linking or even Social Media perspective, which will help SEO. Essentially something that is going to block you from doing your job of moving the needle. These might be bigger projects, but should be assigned extremely high priorities.

Getting into the roadmap early

Many people make the mistake of thinking SEO is a post launch activity. What will happen is product teams will come to you as they are about to launch a new part of the site, a redesign, etc. and frantically say: “Can you give me your SEO requirements for this today!” Good luck with that, right?

Sure, you’ll frantically spend the day getting them title tag structures, url structures, some internal linking ideas, etc. But, 9 times out of 10, it’ll be moved into phase 2 because they didn’t realize how big the undertaking was, or you will miss something because it was so last minute and the impact won’t be as large as it should.

Ensure the teams that are driving the product or website changes are aware that SEO is a holistic process that requires you to understand the opportunity, market, etc. and would most likely require you to think abut things in advance. It will give you time to think of the on-page SEO and Site Architecture requirements, but also, give you time to think of how to generate links, create content to push via social media, etc. Essentially, you can deliver an SEO Go To Market Strategy that involves SEO Site Architecture, Social Media, and Link Building elements.

Prioritizing SEO projects

Now that you have a list of Quick Wins, Major Projects, and an understanding of the company wide product roadmap, you can start prioritizing your SEO roadmap. I’m a fan of the P1-P5 system (e.g. Priority-1 to Priority-5), P1 being the most important and P5 being the least important. Basically, take a basic project management approach to your prioritization model:

  • P1: I reserve this for things that are blockers and will not allow you to move forward in other activities. P1’s are the types of things that you want to nudge your teams about weekly, and sometimes daily.
  • P2: Usually high priority items that are going to be long term, but, are extremely important to the business.
  • P3: Not a major priority, but something that should be addressed in the near future. This can be something tied to specific pages and/or low priority content/verticals in the company.
  • P4/P5: I am flexible with both of these, but essentially, I think of these as things that aren’t going to make or break my SEO initiatives and I could live without for now. For example, I would assign fixing something like H2’s and H3’s on a page a P4 and Meta Keywords a P5. These are projects that I’ll never push, but if they go out, great!

This allows you to address SEO items in a timely manner. For things that are P1, be sure to have all your specs, documentation, guidelines, etc. lined up and ready for dev teams and QA so they can hit them and you don’t become the “blocker.” This allows you to know what battles you want to fight with the product teams. I will never escalate anything that is a P3 or lower to executives because they aren’t going to move the needle. But, I’ll escalate a P1 if it is getting no traction, in a heartbeat.

Align link building and social media to product launches

Knowing when a product is going to launch really helps your ability to plan for this. Now you can start addressing these things in advance and gives you some breathing room to work with when working with content teams and/or external contractors. Create a parallel project to the Product Development task called “XYZ Product Launch Visibility” for these tasks and start tracking efforts tied to this project.

Some of the activities tied to this can be seeking out Business Development opportunities to syndicate content and/or do guest blogging. Spend that time building out content for articles, blog posts, and/or infographics that are relevant to that product, vertical, or service. Create a Social Media Visiblity plan to supplement the overall SEO efforts.

It’s all about strategy

Being strategic about your SEO roadmap and how you align to product teams and verticals can impact your success. Tracking these projects through to completion and then doing post launch analysis on rankings, traffic, etc. gives you the ability to report these up and talk about wins. Doing so will only help you to push projects forward in the future and make more of an impact going forward.

I would love to hear your thoughts about SEO strategy and how you’ve implemented similar project management principles into in-house SEO in the comments below.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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