Do you use checklists when working on SEO campaigns or when auditing a site? Or do you figure that checklists are for beginners and you’ll be fine as you’ve done this plenty of times before?
If, like me, much of your experience is from working agency side you’ll be used to repeating the same tasks again and again. As you progress you may be able to delegate these but they still need to be done.
The risk is that you’ll become complacent and something will slip your mind. In this post I’ll attempt to convince you to use checklists and I’ll provide some examples to get started with.
Beyond Best Practice
Contrary to what you might read on blogs or in LinkedIn Pulse articles, SEO isn’t just about best practice. If you could get to the top of the SERPs by following a few best practice gridlines the SEO industry wouldn’t really exist – anyone can follow guidelines.
SEO is actually about overcoming challenges, experimenting and finding your own way. What works for one site won’t work for all and therefore a good SEO is constantly testing. Learning new skills and techniques is a vital part of being an SEO and those who don’t develop struggle to get results.
Despite the fact that SEO is complex and constantly evolving a simple best-practice checklist should be something you use on a regular basis.
Why Use a Checklist
If you Google “checklists” one of the results you’ll find on the first page is a site by Atul Gawande who literally wrote the book on checklists. The Checklist Manifesto was published in 2009. In it, Gawande shows that errors of ineptitude (where we should know better) are easily avoided by following simple checklists.
Gawande explains the impact that checklists have had on the medical profession. Convincing highly trained surgeons that they needed to follow basic best-practice checklists was a struggle but one that has paid off. Research in the UK has shown that the use of checklists has reduced surgery-related deaths by 40%. It turns out that making a surgeon tick off a checklist item which says “have you checked you haven’t left your surgical tools inside the patient” is a great way of making sure they haven’t.
But I’m Not a Surgeon
SEO isn’t brain surgery (which is lucky when you consider how many people who claim to be SEO experts actually are) but there is still the potential for SEO to go really, really wrong. Anyone who’s seen the impact of a mistake in a robots.txt file or a botched migration, can attest that it’s the small things which are easily missed can have a big impact on a business.
What Can Go Wrong
Last month I saw a site where the entire list of redirects added for a site migration weren’t working because of a typo in the .htaccess file. This is easy to do (I’ve done it numerous times) but it’s easily resolved by checking all the redirects once you think you’re done. I know this because it’s on my Migration checklist.
The long term impact of not having any redirects from your migration in place could be the loss of several years’ worth of site authority. Of course, you would probably spot this eventually but at this point you would have a very unhappy client or boss who will be very keen for you to fix the problem very soon. It’s at this point you wish you had used a checklist.
As well as preventing you from causing unnecessary issues a checklist can help you and your team to ensure that nothing is missed. If there are multiple people working on a campaign it’s easy for everyone to assume that someone else has covered the best practice bits. With a checklist you can be sure that everything is up to scratch before moving on to the more interesting experimental, problem solving SEO.
Checklists also help less experienced members of staff who may be unfamiliar with the tasks they’re being asked to complete. They’ll still need support and training but a list can help them to break up tasks and hit the ground running.
Where to start
There are lots of SEO checklists you can use but you might find that none of them is comprehensive enough to cover all bases. It might be that you need to combine multiple lists or use some as a basis for your own list.
At Optix we use the following lists for SEO campaigns:
- SEO Setup Checklist
- Site Migration Checklist
- Google Analytics Audit Checklist
- Keyword Research Checklist (this one is more of a process than a traditional checklist)
- Content Marketing Setup Checklist
- Outreach Setup Checklist
- On Site Optimisation Checklist
You might not need to use this many straight away but hopefully I’ve convinced you that using a checklist can help you reduce risk, improve consistency and get better results.