As we kick off 2024, it’s time to rethink our SEO strategy. Rather than a complete overhaul, evaluating what’s working and what needs refinement will help you realign priorities.
This article outlines key strategic aspects you must review, from high-level business considerations to the specific data, tools, content and technical elements that drive results.
Whether you’re aiming for minor tweaks or bigger changes, this checklist will help set your SEO program up for success in the next 12 months.
Gain clarity on business priorities for 2024 and beyond
Before assessing your SEO strategy, you must understand where the business intends to go in 2024 and beyond. Gain insight into potential strategic moves, new products, markets, audiences and pivots.
The business strategy needs to be built into the foundations of your plan, so the more you can understand this and ensure your goals are aligned, the better.
Economic or industry trends: Do you have the right awareness?
Macro trends may have been tackled in the wider business strategy. Still, it is good to do your research.
- What is happening in the industry, thinking bigger than SEO?
- Have any big competitors made big moves in 2023?
- Are there annual reports you can download and read? What is the industry press saying?
It’s that time of year when all the predictions content comes out, be sure to have your eyes on this. Think of how this information might affect the business’ trajectory in 2024, particularly search.
Audience insights: Has anything changed about how customers search or buy your product or service?
How well do you know your audience? And how well is this knowledge informing your search strategy?
Audience understanding should be foundational to your strategy. When did you last map the customer journey?
For example, seeing the intersections where search and social work together can be really insightful as to what content the user is actually looking for.
Are your audience still turning to a search engine at the milestones you have in your journey, or are they searching on social? Do they want written content or are they hoping to see audio or video?
Also, are you still considering the right audience, or is there a new audience you could tap into? With the knowledge of the business strategy and new product launches that might be coming, does this change anything?
Competitors: Are you still monitoring the right competitors?
Map out your competitors and be sure you haven’t missed any new players in the market. You might have Goliaths out there that aren’t your search day-to-day competitors.
When did you last deeply dive into some of your key search competitors? Resetting your strategy is always a good time to do this.
Look at where they are focusing, if they are doing something you haven’t considered and where you see the risks.
Analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
With all the research you have done considering the bigger picture, note down what you think your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) are from an SEO perspective.
This might be something that you use just for yourself, but it can also be helpful to include in your strategy documentation if you need to share this with a manager, the board or your client. It shows you have really understood where you are currently and what is likely to happen over the coming 12 months.
So with the business strategy fully considered, you can now dive into your SEO strategy, starting with a performance review and a check-in on your processes, tools and people.
Best and worst performance from last year
I always find doing a review of last year’s performance helpful. You may want to include slightly different insights depending on your strategic focus.
Look at top-performing and worst-performing content from a search perspective, overlaying information such as the format of the content. Compare this to content from all channels, you can start to understand what content is most popular with your users and in what format.
Consider this content with your goal and ecommerce data. You’ll have your own business-agreed attribution model, but I always find it helpful to see where SEO has assisted in converting someone.
If you have a well-defined customer journey, you will undoubtedly understand what role SEO is aiming to play in converting customers, as you’ll know where your focus has been.
Looking to see how successful across the year this has been is a great exercise. This highlights gaps where either the results haven’t been achieved, or maybe the rankings are there, but it’s not driving the expected action.
Work with your CX and data teams to understand some of these trends. Looking at rankings, for example, might be too narrow a focus. It doesn’t tell you enough to understand whether SEO is actually performing the role of converting customers.
So, think widely when it comes to reviewing 2023 data. It’s also a great opportunity to think if there is anything you wish you had tracked so you can set this in motion for your 2024 strategy.
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Carefully evaluating your tools is crucial, as overlooking a key asset could give your competitors an advantage.
We all build habits, and it’s no different with our tools. We go in and use the same reports that we always use. But is there more to the tools you have that you aren’t benefitting from? Do you need some more training from the provider?
Or, are there new tools that might add to your capability, speed up processes or improve the way you tackle your SEO strategy?
Depending on when your annual budget renews, it is worth taking some time to look at what is on the market and the best use of your tool budget.
AI: Have you embraced it?
2023 was the year where AI was the topic of nearly every article, podcast and event. Have you tested where AI might fit in for you and your business? If not, I would recommend carving out some time in 2024 for this.
I believe AI is a valuable ally for strategy, serving as a data slicer, researcher, or ideation machine. While it’s not a finisher for tasks like content publication or final decision-making, it significantly enhances processes and accelerates delivery.
Reporting: Are your reports conveying what they need to?
SEO reporting serves two purposes:
- Providing detailed insights for day-to-day decision-making with close colleagues.
- Fulfilling reporting requirements for managers, boards, or clients.
At the start of a new year, it’s beneficial to seek feedback from recipients to enhance transparency and clarity in your reports.
Team and partners: Are you set up for success in 2024?
With the many skills required to deliver an SEO strategy, you will have colleagues, freelancers or an agency supporting you. I hope they are also doing some of what we’re covering in this checklist. For most agency relationships, a version of this should be happening every quarter.
As you build your 2024 strategy, consider if you have the right players in the right positions and ensure they know what their part is.
Keywords: Are they still relevant? What are you missing?
Understanding your audience’s search behavior is crucial for a successful SEO strategy. It’s not just about optimizing what you think makes sense; you need to ensure it aligns with user intent.
Without this knowledge, you risk failing by either having the wrong content for user intent despite a good position or having both position and content but failing to guide the user to a conversion.
Understanding what your audience is searching for, what they are hoping to find and what they are trying to do all need to be known factors to accompany your keyword research.
Content: Are your plans prioritized accordingly?
Ensuring you have a content plan prioritized by likely impact will set you up for better success. Work closely with your CX and data teams to understand how you can convert more users through content.
You also need to ask yourself:
- Is the format right?
- How does my audience wish to digest this content?
- Am I serving them in the right way to help aid a conversion?
Having a roadmap that clearly outlines the next quarter and an overall plan for the entire year is beneficial. This is particularly useful for aligning teams and facilitating collaboration.
Technical SEO: How healthy is the website? What plans are there for 2024?
Technical SEO is integral to an SEO strategy and often influenced by other departments, necessitating broader business discussions. Access to the website’s technical roadmap and involvement in its planning can significantly enhance your strategy’s chances of success.
Engineering teams easily forget SEO. Ensure it is not an afterthought by embedding yourself into their planning. This makes working as an SEO less stressful. Nothing is worse than that last-minute curve ball of “We’re launching X tomorrow’!”
A strategy refresh is a great time to consider the SEO technical health in general, looking at what stands out as opportunities to tackle this year.
Benchmark this against some of the core competitors so you have a baseline. You can also use it to push the case forward for technical work that may require the development team.
Dig deeper: What to look for in a technical SEO audit
Digital PR: Why will your target publications want to talk about your business in 2024?
Having reviewed your 2023 performance, you’ll have a clear idea of what worked, what didn’t or where missed opportunities may have been.
In planning for this year, you want to be sure you don’t fall into any of the issues that held the strategy back previously.
Aligning the digital PR plan with your content strategy is crucial, especially when relying on others for content creation. Ask yourself why your target publications would care and identify hooks to stand out in 2024.
Journalists are increasingly time-poor, facing pressure to produce quality content at scale. Creating the content their audience seeks and cultivating the right relationships can lead to success.
Collaboration: What is everyone else doing?
Remember, SEO is most successful when integrated into the wider strategy. While some businesses naturally incorporate this, many still operate in siloed teams with insufficient communication.
Champion the breakdown of silos, share your strategy reset process, and encourage other teams to undergo similar exercises.
Mimic customer behavior, aligning your priorities and work with the customer’s journey. Magic happens when you embrace a customer-first mentality.
Refining your 2024 SEO game plan
Approach 2024 with confidence by ensuring your SEO foundations 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.
Leverage the checklist outlined here as a framework, adapting areas to suit your business priorities. With clarity on the strategy and transparency through reporting, you can continually optimize throughout the year, working collaboratively across teams.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.