When it comes to SEO, you have to prioritize. There are many different questions you need to ask yourself and tasks that need to be completed in regards to SEO, and too many companies are doing them in the wrong order.  Having everything you need to do laid out into different categories is going to help you be successful, not to mention help make things less overwhelming for a startup. If you have an existing website that needs an SEO makeover, there are three categories that I typically use to categorize everything that needs to be done: Must change, Would be Nice, and Last Priority.

Different SEO Tasks Categorized

Below is an extensive list of everything that needs to be done to improve the SEO of your website (and the order in which you should prioritize these tasks):

Must Change

The SEO tasks that you must change all have to do with setting up a great website that caters toward the SEO you’ll implement in the future. After all, you shouldn’t begin optimizing your website if it isn’t set to go for readers in the first place. You don’t want readers to land on your site and not get what they need.

  • Check your indexing status to make sure your site is being found at all. You can do this through Google Webmaster tools. Have an idea of how many pages you think you have, and then see how many are indexed. If many are not, then Google likely considers them similar pages and you have some work to do.
  • Eliminate or revise duplicate content pages. If you find that many of your pages aren’t indexed, you need to either eliminate them altogether or revise those pages by putting a lot of great, unique content on them.
  • Improve format and navigation. Make sure that your website has a good color scheme and format and is easy to navigate. Begin putting internal links into your content so that readers can easily move around the site. Make sure that you have solid pages set and read to go (blog, about us, homepage, etc.) so you can move forward.
  • Install social sharing buttons. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so this should be one of the first things you implement to get out of the way.

Would Be Nice

SEO tasks in this category can really only happen if you have a solid, quality site to begin with. Once this happens, you can get into the real bulk of SEO that is this section.

  • Get started with keyword research. Figure out what searchers are searching for in your niche as well as the competition for that term through the Google ADWords Keyword Tool, and then create a page or a piece of content to cater to those searchers.
  • Use relevant title tags. Your page title is how search engine bots are going to know what your page is about; thus being one of the biggest ranking factors for your site. This should be done after you have done your keyword research so you know what keywords to use in your title tags (and what to write your content about in the first place).
  • Begin building links. Link building is one of the best ways to improve your SEO, so start offering guest articles and networking to earn backlinks for your site. Hint: Make sure you aren’t buying any links. You want all of your link building to be natural.
  • Take advantage of local search. You will want your website to be present on local sites such as Yelp, Google+ Local, Bing Local, etc. Claim your business and fill out all of the information for those who find your site through local search engines.

Last Priority

  • Get started with SEO tools. Once you have a good handle on SEO, you should try out some cool SEO tools and plugins to help. You can learn more about some great SEO tools here.
  • Don’t forget about mobile. This might move up into the last category for some businesses and/or as time continues, but for now I like to put it here. Mobile is becoming one of the premier ways that consumers search, so it’s important to create a website that caters to that. However, I always like to think that a solid website on your desktop is a great way to learn SEO and get familiar with the web before dabbling in mobile.

There are of course other SEO tasks out there that are not mentioned (the article would be never-ending), but these are some of the most popular. What would you add to the list, and where would you categorize that task? Are there any tasks above that you would move into a different section? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.