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SEO 17 min read August 23, 2018

Your Basic 12 Month SEO Plan For A New Site

Your Basic 12 Month SEO Plan For A New Site

Marcus Clarke
Founder of Searchant — digital marketing agency that helps businesses increase their organic visibility with transparent SEO methods.
If you aren't doing SEO yourself then you might be under the misconception that it's simple and that you will see results as soon as you've put the effort in.

In reality, it's far from simple and requires time and the coming together of many resources, in order to be successful in the long term.
And if that's true for a website that's been around a while, that difficulty is multiplied for brand new websites. With millions of new websites each year, it can be difficult to claim your spot in Google, and initially, you have the much-debated Google sandbox to contend with.

So where do you even start?

Firstly it's important to highlight that this is a basic 12-month plan, SEO can be infinitely complex and you'll want to develop a bespoke plan for every website that you work on. But the points in this article will generally give you a great starting point.

While I'm not the biggest fan of micro-planning, with such a mammoth undertaking I think the only way to achieve success for a new website is to put in place a 12 month plan. You have to allow flexibility as over that timeframe, goal posts will change, your available resource will change, your available skillset might change, as well as a hundred other things that might change, so it's important to stay fluid while keeping up momentum. Don't lose motivation just because you didn't achieve everything that you have set out.

So while this plan would definitely be different for every website that is launched, here's a basic 12-month plan to get started with:

Pre-launch

Before even thinking about the standard 'SEO' factors, when you're getting your site designed there are a few things to bear in mind at this point that will save you enormous headache months down the line.

When developing the site you should have a focus on speed from the very beginning. As complexities to your website get added, they can have a negative impact on speed, so keep speed on the agenda throughout the website development cycle.
Other important factors you shouldn't ignore at this stage include:

  • Ensuring your site will be responsive or at least mobile-friendly, this is a must do.
  • Leveraging AMP if applicable. If you're publishing news or articles and want to take advantage of AMP spots in the search results, then this is the time to get that functionality developed so that you can easily push out AMP versions of your content in future.
  • Image compression. Not everyone who will be populating the content on your site will have an understanding of image compression and why it's important. Developing a system that either automatically optimizes images or allows users to do so very easily is vital to ensuring your website doesn't become bloated as content is published in the future.
  • Schema markup. The focus on schema markup has increased in recent years and websites can leverage schema markup to show more detail about their businesses on the search results page. This can lead to increased click-through rates as well as many indirect benefits.
Before your website even launches you'll need to do at least a basic amount of competitor research, which in terms of SEO will ultimately come down to keyword research and ensuring that any content you plan will match searcher intent.

The keyword research you perform now should help to identify how people search for the very core products or services that you offer as a business. What you imagine people google in order to find the service you offer may actually differ from reality.

How keyword structure influences site structure

For each one of your core products or services, you'll map out a primary keyword that will be the foundation to build each of your main pages around.

For example, let's say you're a dentist for dogs, you might offer several services such as cleaning, extraction, and implants. But how do people search for those services? Your keyword research should aim to find out how most people are searching for your services in your area.

For example in the UK people might search for 'dog teeth cleaning' while US searchers might search 'canine dental service'. While Google understands these are probably the same topic and will rank variations, finding the highest volume version of your keyword is the best way forward to use as your primary keyword and should improve Click-through rates from the search pages, compared with using a less familiar keyword phrase.

Content iteration and developing expertise

In 2018 the keyword research shouldn't stop there. Identifying the primary keyword for each page is the first step but that's just the starting point. To make sure your pages have Expertise, Authority and Trust (which is one way Google will consider your content) you'll not only need to use your professional expertise to make sure all relevant information is included and accurate, but you'll also need to make sure you're covering anything users and Google might reasonably expect to find on your pages, and what your competitors might also be talking about.

So in practical terms, continuing with the dog dentist example that might mean on your implants page should answer common questions about dog tooth implants that people are asking on Google, a concerned dog owner might google something like 'are teeth implants for dogs expensive' or 'are implants for dogs painful'.

If they are searching for it, then you should be covering it in your content.

There are plenty of other 'foundational' things you could be doing at this point, but focus on the basics so that you can keep moving and get your site launched, don't focus on perfection at this stage. Make sure you have an XML sitemap in place and that it's easily updatable (or preferably updates daily by itself). A basic SEO plugin will normally do the job perfectly well.

We also recommend an HTML sitemap to help both users and search engines to understand what your site is about.

Months 1-3

By this point your site should be live and you should have all of your main landing pages up and running. This is where the real foundational work starts, that means getting your first few links to your website and making sure you have a plan for your content.

Firstly a little note on site structure: it's important you understand how you'll structure your site now, otherwise it can become a hassle to change in the future and hold your rankings back if not done correctly. But it's actually fairly simple when you implement a good structure from the start.

Most agree that using a silo or hub and spoke site structure is the best way to maximize your search performance and to help demonstrate to Google what areas you cover:
Following this simple structure has a range of benefits, from reinforcing your main keywords to helping you rank for long tail keywords to ensuring that you aren't cannibalizing your ranking efforts. Each time you plan a new page (based on keyword or competitor research) you should work out how it will fit into this structure.

Once you've slotted it neatly into a hub, then it's simply a case of interlinking between the pages, or some prefer just to link from the subtopic to the main page, but it's better to test which method of interlinking works best for you and your users.

Once you've got your internal linking structure in order, it's time to think about your external links. In terms of these links you should think about links from:

  • Your social profiles
  • Any existing industry contacts
  • Relevant industry directories (not the old spammy style directories)
  • Citations (if you're a local business with a physical location)

In terms of content, you should launch your site with at least the basic content needed on your main pages. Month 1 is the time to put a full content calendar together to build out content assets (in-depth articles, guides or features) that you can use for link building in the future, as well as supporting content that will reinforce your main categories.

Outbound Content Plan

We've only really discussed content from an inbound perspective so far, but as you begin to make connections in the industry you'll need to start putting resource in to creating outbound content.

If you've created a content calendar already then you just need to split it into inbound or outbound so that you can ensure you make progress with both channels.

Until you start making those connections it's difficult to say exactly what content you'll need. At this point you might just want to put placeholders in the content calendar to make sure when the opportunities arise that you have the resource available.

As well as putting the wheels in motion of content and links it's also time to set up monitoring. Having at least some basic measuring in place is important so you can measure progress and re-adjust your plans if things aren't heading in the right direction. You should ensure you have the following basic set up:
1
Google Analytics (or other analytics platforms)
2
Google search console (formerly known as webmaster tools)
3
Keyword tracking (monitor as many keywords as you can so that you can easily spot trends and general progress)
4
Reports: while your analytics and keyword tracking will give you all of the information you need, we recommend setting up some form of automated (or semi-automated) reporting that you can view at the end of each month. We use Google data studio so that all relevant data is pulled in daily and presented so that you can easily see what's happening without having to dig into data.

Months 4-6

By now Google should probably be starting to rank you for at least some keywords, it wouldn't be unusual to only be ranking well for your brand name at this stage if you've been taking things slow, so don't panic, for a brand new site this is very early days.

By now you should have a basic level of content and links built up so it's time to move on and start getting a bit more aggressive.

At this point you should start planning for at least a couple of content marketing campaigns or skyscraper campaigns. Ultimately that means developing a piece of epic industry-relevant content that you can launch a fairly large campaign with and continue to update the resource and relaunch it for years to come.

Whether you decide to go down the content marketing, skyscraper or other route, both should be helping you to not only build topically relevant backlinks, but also help in content generation that will also reinforce the topical expertise of your website.

Content wise you should start building out pages that are targeting those keywords that you want to rank for in the longterm, that are core to your offering and that your competitors are doing well for.

In months 1-3 you should already have started to track your main keywords but now is a great time to double check that you're tracking the right keywords and to add more to your tracking.

Website audit

The 6 month point is a great chance to review the work that has already been completed and to adjust the plan for the next 6 months accordingly.

In the SEO world the best way to achieve that is to complete a website audit. On older websites audits can take many days to complete and create months (or even years) of future development and marketing work. For a new site it should in theory be much simpler and you'll just want to spot anything that's going particularly wrong, or to find opportunities that you're missing out on.

To begin with running your site through the Serpstat site audit tool is a great start. This will quickly pick up any technical problems that your site has, while you're there you may as well set this audit to run a monthly basis so you don't have to worry about checking it manually.
Once you've dealt with any technical issues with your site you should audit your content and make sure it's as close to 'best in class' as it can be, anything not quite hitting the mark then it's time to review and improve it. A quick look at your competitors at this point will also help you identify any content gaps that you have not previously noticed. Add these improvements and newly discovered content opportunities to your calendar to complete over the next 6 months.

Months 7-9

By this point you should have got into a fairly good rhythm of content production and promotion. Up until now we've only really discussed promotion in terms of link building but you should also be engaging with your customer base in a range of other channels.

As a basic this means social media but you should also be exploring other places online where your customer base might be, this is obviously dependant on your industry but it could mean:

  • Active industry forums
  • Q&A sites such as quora
  • Comment sections of popular industry bloggers
  • Industry review sites

The emphasis here being you should cast your net wide and make sure you are engaging with your core customer base. This is not only good general business practice but will help to show to Google that your business and website is trusted and that reference to your website can be found where it might reasonably be expected to be found.

Months 10-12

You're nearing the end of year one of your website and by this point you should have a good idea of what works for your website and what doesn't. It's thought that Google judges different business verticals differently so while the general advice is the same, you also have to get a feel for what moves the needle in your industry. That might be content, links, community engagement or something else.

It's time to focus in on any pages that are within striking distance, if you have important keywords ranking between positions 5-20 then Google is considering giving them a top 3 spot, so focus in on those - build some more quality links to them and really scrutinize the content and try and improve it.

Pushing these keywords on to page one will be your quickest wins to get a good start to year 2 so make them a focus in your year 2 planning. Once you've identified those and what's working well for you then it's very much business as usual. Build out a robust content calendar that is based on keyword research and build links in the way that has worked best for you during year 1.
Now you have a 12-month SEO plan for your site which you can use. If you have any questions or recommendations, please write to us!

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