Now that 2024 is underway, it's high time we sat down and fine-tuned our SEO tactics. It's not about tearing up and building new, but rather about reviewing what works and where we can refine a little. This takes you through the important areas you can't miss, from overall business goals to the specific data, tools, content and technical solutions that actually deliver results.
Maybe only small adjustments are needed, or it's time for bigger changes. Our checklist will guide you to a successful SEO plan for years to come.
Crystal clear view of the business goals for 2024 and beyond
In order to properly calibrate your SEO strategy, you need to understand the company's direction in 2024 and beyond. Anticipate strategic initiatives, new products, markets, target groups and possible courses of change.
The business strategy underpins your entire planning effort, so the more you understand and can ensure your goals are aligned, the better.
Economic or industry trends: Are you sufficiently updated?
Bigger trends have probably already been picked up in the broader business strategy, but it never hurts to do your homework.
- What happens in the industry if we think beyond just SEO?
- Have any of the major competitors made decisive changes in 2023?
- Are there annual reports available? What does the trade press say?
It's this time of year when all the forecasts and predictions are published - make sure you don't miss them. Consider how this information could impact the company's path forward in 2024, especially in search.
Customer insights: Has search or purchase behavior changed?
Do you really know your target audience? And is this knowledge reflected in your search strategy?
A thorough understanding of your customers' behaviors is at the heart of the strategy. When was the last time you illustrated a customer journey?
It can be eye-opening to see how search and social media work together, and what content users are actually looking for.
Is your target audience still using search engines at key stages in the customer journey, or have they started searching through social media? Do they prefer written content, or is it audiovisual material that counts now? Are there existing or potential new customer groups you should focus on? With insight into the company's strategy and upcoming product launches, is there anything that needs to change?
Competitor Analysis: Are you still monitoring the right competitors?
Map your competitors to make sure you haven't missed any newcomers to the market. There may be giants out there that are not your direct competitors in the search results.
When was the last time you dived into your analysis of the main competitors in the search results? Rethinking your strategy is an excellent opportunity for this.
Analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
With all the research you've done and the bigger picture in mind, write down what you believe to be your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) from an SEO perspective.
This insight may be internal, but it is also powerful to include it in your strategic documentation that you may need to share with a manager, board or client. It shows a deep understanding of the current situation and what is likely to happen in the next 12 months.
Once the business strategy is fully considered, it's time to dive into the SEO strategy, starting with a solid review and a check of your processes, tools and people.
Best and worst performance from the previous year
I always find it rewarding to review last year's achievements. You may choose to include slightly different insights based on your strategic focus.
Review top- and worst-performing content from a search perspective, and overlay information such as the content's format. Compare this with content from all channels to begin to understand what content is most popular with your users and in what format.
Analyze your content along with goals and e-commerce data. You probably have your own attribution model, but for me it's always useful to see how SEO contributes to conversions.
If you have a well-defined customer journey, it's likely that you understand the role SEO is meant to play in converting customers, because you know where the focus has been.
Evaluating how successful this process has been during the year is a valuable exercise. This highlights gaps where results may not be achieved, or perhaps the ranking is there but not leading to the expected action.
Work with your CX and data teams to understand some of these trends. Focusing solely on rankings may be too narrow a point of view. It does not provide enough information to understand if SEO is actually performing its role in converting customers.
So, think big when reviewing data from 2023. It's also a great opportunity to think about whether there's anything you wish you'd tracked so you can put it into action for your 2024 strategy.
Carefully evaluating the tools you use is critical, as missing out on a key asset can give your competitors an edge.
We humans are creatures of habit, and so are the tools we use. We easily fall into the same patterns and use the same reports over and over again. But are there additional features in your tools that you are not taking advantage of? Would you need more training from the supplier?
Or are there new tools on the market that could enhance your capabilities, speed up processes or improve how you attack your SEO strategy?
Depending on when your annual budget is updated, it's worth taking the time to review what's available and how best to use your utility budget.
AI: Have you taken the plunge?
2023 was the year AI was discussed in almost every article, podcast and event. Have you explored how AI can fit into your business? If not, I recommend you set aside time for this in 2024.
I see AI as an important helper in strategy work, which can act as an analyst, explorer or idea generator. Although AI cannot complete tasks such as content publishing or make the final decisions, the technology has the ability to greatly improve processes and speed up deliveries.
Reporting: Do your reports convey what they need to?
SEO reporting serves two purposes:
- Providing detailed insights for daily decisions together with close colleagues.
- To meet the reporting requirements of managers, boards or customers.
At the beginning of a new year, it is beneficial to ask recipients for feedback to improve the transparency and clarity of the reports.
Teams and partners: Are you equipped for success in 2024?
SEO strategy requires many different skills and you will have support from colleagues, freelancers or an agency. I hope they also do some of the things we cover in this checklist. For most agency relationships, this should occur quarterly.
As you build your strategy for 2024, make sure you have the right people in the right place and make sure they understand their role.
Keywords: Are they still relevant? What is missing?
Understanding how your target audience searches is critical to a successful SEO strategy. It's not just about optimizing what you think makes sense; you need to make sure it matches the user intent.
Without this knowledge, you risk failure by having the wrong content for the user intent despite a good position, or having both the position and the content but failing to lead the user to a conversion.
Content: Are Your Plans Prioritized Right?
Ensuring you have a content plan that prioritizes activities based on likely impact will set you up for greater success. Work closely with your CX and data teams to understand how to convert more users through content.
You also need to ask yourself a few questions:
- Is the format the right one?
- How does my audience want to consume this content?
- Am I providing the content in a way that facilitates conversion?
Having a road map that clearly outlines the next quarter and an overall plan for the entire year is beneficial. This is especially useful for synchronizing teams and facilitating collaboration.
Technical SEO: How healthy is the website? What are the plans for 2024?
Technical SEO is an integral part of an SEO strategy and is often influenced by other departments, requiring broader business discussions. Access to the site's technical roadmap and involvement in its planning can significantly improve your strategy's chances of success.
Tech teams easily forget about SEO. Make sure it's not an afterthought by making yourself part of their planning. Working as an SEO becomes less stressful this way. Nothing is worse than a last-minute surprise with "We're launching X tomorrow!"
Renewing the strategy is a golden opportunity to review the technical SEO health of the website at large, focusing on what opportunities are there to seize during the year.
Compare this with some of your main competitors to get a starting point. This can also be used to argue for technical work that may be required of the development team.
Digital PR: Why should your target publications want to talk about your company in 2024?
After reviewing performance in 2023, you now have a clear picture of what worked, what didn't and where there may have been missed opportunities.
In planning for this year, it is important that you make sure you don't run into problems that previously hindered the strategy.
Syncing the digital PR plan with your content strategy is critical, especially when you depend on others for content creation. Ask yourself why your target publications should care and identify unique traits that can make you stand out in 2024.
Journalists have less time and are under pressure to produce quality content at scale. Creating the content their audience is looking for and cultivating the right relationships can lead to success.
Collaboration: What is everyone else doing?
Remember to SEO is most successful when integrated into a broader strategy. While some companies naturally include this, many still work in isolated groups with insufficient communication.
Advocate for breaking down silos, share your strategy reboot, and encourage other teams to go through similar exercises.
Mimic customer behaviors by adapting your priorities and working methods according to the customer journey. When you adopt a customer-centric mindset, that's when the magic happens.
Refinement of your SEO game plan for 2024
Approach 2024 with confidence by ensuring your SEO fundamentals are strong. Carefully evaluating what has worked, where there are gaps, changes in the market, and alignment with business goals will set you up for success.
Using the checklist outlined here as a framework, adapt areas to suit your business priorities. With clarity of strategy and transparency through reporting, you can constantly optimize throughout the year and collaborate across teams.