What Makes an SEO Program Successful?

Professional taking notes from analytics displayed on a laptop.
Whether you are an in-house SEO or an SEO consultant, creating a program that is competitive enough to help a website succeed is critical.

But it’s also important to manage the program well. When done right, you can keep stakeholders feeling confident and team members working together on progress.

In this article, I’ll cover:

1. Creating a Plan

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

The amount of work that goes into crafting a successful SEO program cannot be underestimated. The first and most important step is initial research. This is before you even create a plan.

Here are some steps to consider:

In-Depth Meeting

This is where you’ll get a basic understanding of the business and their goals, where they are at in their SEO or marketing programs and uncover any specific requirements for their SEO campaigns.

Access to Accounts

Of course, you’ll get all the logins and credentials you need to do additional research. This includes the website(s), social media accounts, analytics accounts, PPC accounts and any other relevant platforms.

Screenshot of Google Search Console Report.
Google Search Console Report

Baseline Research

Doing a bit of baseline research helps to inform the initial kick-off meetings for the project and the SEO plan.

There will be much more in-depth research to come. This is simply to get a bird’s eye view so you can make recommendations on the program.

Some of the things you can do include:

  • A light website audit (a more in-depth one comes later) to see how well the site is currently optimized and performing.
  • Review the entire digital footprint of the brand, including social and PPC.
  • Target audience research, including quantitative and qualitative research (AYTM is one service you might explore) – this serves as a basis for things like keyword research, content creation and more.

Program Recommendations

Armed with initial data, you are ready to put together a custom strategy that addresses the client’s weaknesses, supports their strengths and creates a roadmap for a thorough SEO program.

Outline overall recommendations for what to do and when including:

  • Project milestones
  • Deliverables
  • Goals
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Priorities, in order of what will move the needle most

As for what you include in your program, some elements of a good SEO program include:

  • Analytics set up and configuration like GA4 and Google Search Console. Even if they are already set up, make sure these tools are optimized and working for you to get the data you need. Some businesses outsource this step to vendors that specialize in it. (For more on making the switch to GA4, see: Google Analytics 4 – What It Is and How to Get Started.)
  • An in-depth site audit. This is a technical deep dive with expert analysis, not just a report run by SEO tools. You can learn more about what types of audits I believe are best in my article on SEO audits and tools.
  • Keyword research. It’s a disservice to hurry this step. It takes time and wisdom to not only uncover the search queries that your target audience uses but also pinpoint the queries that are the most relevant and present the biggest opportunities now and in the future.
  • Competitor research. Another big step that takes effort, competitor analysis helps in many ways to shape the SEO program further. I talk about this more in how to do competitor research for SEO.
  • Content development. Every good SEO program will lead with quality content. With AI becoming more in fashion these days, it’s important to take the right approach when using these tools. In this step, you’ll present what type of content you will need to compete in the search results (by using a whole-SERP approach) and also how you will make the content helpful and “people first” as Google would say. There’s a lot to unpack here, I would start by reviewing some of my insights on Google’s March 2024 updates.
  • Optimization. Present a plan for how you will optimize the site’s pages, based on the research you have conducted on the site, the competitors and priorities. Putting together an SEO checklist for types of webpages across the site can be helpful.
  • Linking. A good SEO program looks at all aspects of internal, inbound and outbound links. Strategies include SEO siloing (more on that next), link-earning programs, ongoing backlink management and internal links. Check out my jam-packed guide on internal linking for SEO for more on this step.
  • SEO siloing. A great website has a great structure, including its navigation and how the content is organized for users and search engines to make it more relevant. A lot of websites fail to do this step right. When done well, though, it can help create a website that performs better all around. See Five Times When SEO Siloing Can Make or Break Your Search Engine Rankings.
  • Technical SEO. This is an area where many brands decide that they need some outside help. Of course, you have crawling tools that can help identify issues with the site, but getting the necessary fixes implemented can be a big hurdle. And some technical SEO projects are big, like improving mobile friendliness, site speed and other core web vitals.

A final note: It’s helpful to share anecdotes of how your recommendations have helped in the past or present case studies from similar websites and support your recommendations with Google’s advice.

2. Onboarding (for Consultants)

If you’re an in-house SEO, you can skip this section. SEO consultants: A quality onboarding process is the foundation of a good working relationship.

With it, there is clarity, and expectations are better established. This means better teamwork.



  • Integrates clients into the consultancy and vice-versa.
  • Helps the client get to know your processes and methodology.
  • Establishes communication preferences and channels.
  • Takes care of all the admin work, including paperwork, account setups, etc.

See my article at Search Engine Land on how to onboard the right way for more ideas on how to make onboarding an efficient process.

3. The Launch Meeting

The launch meeting is where stakeholders will come together to review the SEO strategy. This is an important meeting to set the tone and get buy-in.

Executives spend almost 23 hours a week in meetings, and 71% of them say they are unproductive and inefficient.

If you run a meeting well, people will remember.

Here are some tips on making the process go smoother:

  • You want all the stakeholders to join and sometimes that can be challenging. Waiting for the right date and time to ensure everyone is there is important and ensures no one is left in the dark.
  • Create the agenda ahead of time and send it to everyone with plenty of time to review it before the meeting. Specifically, ask them to review it and come armed with questions.
  • Allow everyone at the meeting to introduce themselves, what they do and how they will be involved in the SEO program.
  • Discuss the program recommendations in a way that everyone (including executives, IT and anyone with no clue about SEO) can understand.
  • Open up the floor for questions – you will likely have already anticipated some of the big questions that come up often at the outset of any SEO program.
  • Discuss how you will manage the project, including the communication channels you’ll be using and how often you’ll meet.

And for more tips, see my article on six practical ways to get buy-in for SEO. You can also catch my on-demand webinar on the same topic.

4. SEO Education for Stakeholders

Initial and ongoing SEO education for stakeholders can be a game-changer. Why? Because it helps them understand the value of your recommendations.

Research shows that continuing education fosters things like commitment and work performance, and leads to changes in attitudes, behaviors and practices.

This may be something you spearhead or offer, or perhaps you outsource your SEO training elsewhere.

(By the way, you can check out our SEO classes and our SEO training membership site if you’re curious about in-person or virtual SEO training.)

Student taking online SEO training with Bruce Clay.
Bruce Clay SEO Training Course at SEOtraining.com

Here at our agency, we put all our clients through our SEO training so they understand SEO best practices and can have more informed conversations with us.

If outsourcing SEO training isn’t feasible, consider building SEO education into your regularly scheduled SEO program meetings, or have “lunch & learns” either in person or on Zooms where you educate on SEO best practices.

Other ways you can build SEO education into the organization include monthly or quarterly SEO news updates. The industry moves fast, and this is a way to keep stakeholders up to date.

Put together an email with relevant news and links to resources to learn more, along with your expert takeaways.

5. Being a Leader

Building your personal brand as an SEO expert requires careful attention to your interactions with stakeholders and colleagues.

Here is some food for thought:

  • Make time to provide assistance and guidance for any SEO issues or questions that come up. You might set up a specific day/time during the week and/or a specific communication channel for this initiative, like a Slack channel for SEO advice.
  • Set expectations of how long it takes to get back to people when they have questions outside of the regularly scheduled progress meetings.
  • Work with team members to problem-solve issues together as they arise, so you can keep the project moving forward and show that you are a team player.
  • Always tailor your advice based on the person’s goals, the SEO program’s goals and/or the business goals.
  • Record and store everything related to the project (in an organized manner!), so that anyone can refer back to your communications as needed. People forget, and this can save you a lot of headaches.

6. Reporting Best Practices

Make sure to have regular intervals of reporting on KPIs and program progress including any wins big or small. This can help keep stakeholders energized about the program.

Some things you might include in your reporting process:

  • An executive summary that summarizes key findings
  • Easy-to-understand, visually appealing charts, graphs and numbers
  • Data analysis with your expert insights
  • Key metrics that track KPIs
Sample of a weekly search traffic report.
Sample of a weekly search traffic report

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re an in-house SEO or a consultant, the key to a successful SEO program lies in crafting an approach that not only meets but exceeds expectations. Follow the steps in this article to be an SEO champion for your employer or client.

Our SEO experts can work with you to build a successful SEO program that gets real results. Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s discuss how we can help.

FAQ: How can I create and implement an effective SEO program to improve my website’s visibility and search engine rankings?

A well-optimized website is critical for attracting organic traffic and increasing your online presence. Implementing a successful SEO program requires careful planning, strategic execution and continuous monitoring.

Let’s explore some key topics to help you improve your website’s visibility and search engine rankings:

The Importance of SEO: Understand why SEO is essential for your website’s success and how it can impact your overall online visibility.

Conducting Keyword Research: Learn how to identify relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is using to search for products or services similar to yours.

On-Page Optimization: Discover the fundamental elements that need to be optimized on your website, including title tags, meta descriptions and heading tags.

Content Optimization: Explore techniques to create high-quality and engaging content that not only satisfies user intent but also aligns with search engine algorithms.

Technical SEO: Gain insights into technical aspects such as website speed, mobile-friendliness, site structure and indexing that can significantly impact your SEO performance.

Building High-Quality Backlinks: Learn the importance of acquiring authoritative and relevant backlinks to improve your website’s credibility and rankings.

Local SEO Strategies: Understand the significance of local SEO and discover tactics to optimize your business for local searches and drive local traffic.

Monitoring and Analytics: Explore tools and methods to track your website’s performance, measure SEO success and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement.

Incorporating these topics will help you build a successful SEO program that lays a solid foundation for improving your website’s visibility and search engine rankings. Remember, SEO is an ongoing process that requires dedication, adaptability and staying updated with the latest trends and algorithm changes.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. Clearly outline your objectives and goals for your SEO program, such as increasing organic traffic, improving conversion rates, or boosting sales.
  2. Evaluate your website’s current SEO status by auditing its technical aspects, on-page elements, content quality and backlink profile.
  3. Use keyword research tools to identify high-potential keywords and long-tail phrases relevant to your industry and audience.
  4. Craft compelling title tags, meta descriptions, URLs and heading tags that incorporate your target keywords and accurately describe your content.
  5. Develop informative and engaging content that caters to your target audience’s needs, while incorporating your target keywords organically.
  6. Focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites through outreach, guest posting and content partnerships.
  7. Optimize your website’s loading time and ensure it is mobile responsive to provide a seamless user experience.
  8. Optimize your website for local searches by creating a Google Business Profile, gaining local citations and encouraging customer reviews.
  9. Utilize tools like Google Analytics to track your website’s organic traffic, rankings and user engagement metrics.
  10. Regularly analyze your SEO performance, identify areas for improvement and make data-driven adjustments to your strategy.
  11. Keep an eye on search engine algorithm updates and adapt your SEO techniques to align with the latest best practices.
  12. Maintain a consistent content creation and promotion strategy to attract new visitors and retain existing ones.
  13. Foster relationships with your audience through social media, email marketing and customer engagement to build loyalty and brand awareness.
  14. Seek opportunities to collaborate with influencers or industry experts to gain exposure and enhance your website’s credibility.
  15. Continuously monitor your website’s performance, evaluate your SEO efforts and make necessary adjustments to ensure continuous improvement.
  16. If you find SEO overwhelming or lack the time and expertise, consider hiring a reputable SEO company to guide you through the process.

By following these steps, you can create and implement an effective SEO program that drives organic traffic, improves visibility and boosts your website’s search engine rankings.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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