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A Timeless Advanced Digital Marketing Checklist For 2016+

It’s that time of the year again. Every year I revisit our checklist for our daily/monthly digital marketing (let’s not call it SEO anymore) campaigns. You’ll see 100s of these checklists around the web. None are going to be this comprehensive.

I say “Digital Marketing” instead of “SEO” because my list below is a lot more than just search engine optimization. You’ll see user testing, design, copywriting and more.


Task list organization

If you read my advanced SEO checklist from 2015, you should know that we are heavily invested in using Basecamp and Google drive to organize tasks and files. Nothing has changed in 2016 in that area. We still used Basecamp and Google Drive for everything.

If you have more than 3 people on a team, I highly recommend using Basecamp and Google Drive to manage your campaigns.


Google Drive Slogan







Changes on the 2016 task list

Our old list consisted of a task list without a timeline. That was a huge mistake and it had to be rectified. I started organizing our task list into month 1-4. I would then reform our efforts and task list every 4 months.

Obviously, we’ve added a large number of new tasks, which didn’t exist before. For example, quality always trumps quantity. I don’t even know why I should bring it up because quality is always universal. However, you would be surprised how many people still focus on the quantity of the website and simply recycle garbage content every two weeks, rather than write fresh, quality copy.

Let’s get started

You need to understand that some of the tools we use are paid. Without paid tools, it’s very hard and time consuming to complete a lot of the tasks in this article.

I’m going to compare our new task list with our old task list for comparison purposes.

SEO List Month 1 (2016)

SEO List Month 1

Benchmarking your online marketing campaign (2015)

Digital Marketing Benchmark

As you can see, we used to start by benchmarking everything first. Although important, it isn’t as important as auditing the business and the website first.

Learning about a client and their demographic has become the most important task for us in the first month.

  • Complete SEO Audit (if a new website is not required). Use Annie’s Audit Template
    • In the past, I had my own audit template. Now I look up to Annie Cushing. Her website audit template is second to none. Her Google Analytics audit is even better. Both of her audits are going for a little less than $400 right now. Seriously, if you value your clients, jump over to her website and buy her audit templates. A seriously undervalued checklist I could not live without, she has always answered my questions if I had any. Here’s to you, Annie.
  • Upload full audit to Google Drive for everyone to review
    • Self-explanatory. We give access to our clients so they can view our work in Google Drive. Absolute transparency is one of the reasons we’ve done so well in the last two years.
  • Ask copywriter to send questionnaire
    • Each client will be different. Our copywriter will have a set of questions she/he will want answered in order to write compelling sales copy.
  • Ask content strategist to determine plan
    • Every 3-4 months we sit down as a team and plan out the content strategy for the next few months. This might be an article, a page on the website, a video, or an eBook. Everything is planned out and scheduled properly.
  • Use SEMrush to find out more about competition
    • SEMrush is amazing. You can find so much about the competition, it’ scary. I really like this tool because I can see how competitors are advertising or what keywords they’re getting traffic from (broadly).
  • User Annie’s GA audit template
    • Yes, an audit is not an audit without looking into the Google Analytics account. Thank you Annie for making our job a million times easier.

Keyword Research Month 1 (2016)

Keyword Research Month 1

Keyword Research (2015)

Keyword Research 2015

Not a lot has changed when it comes to keyword research. Honestly, my favourite part of keyword research is ordering industry specific magazines and finding hidden gems. Not everything is online. I’ve added Amazon and Quora to the list because you can find keywords you would otherwise miss.

  • Use keyword planner
    • Nothing new here. Most agencies still to this day only use Keyword Planner or SEMrush to research keywords. I’ve worked with some of the biggest agencies and it just kills me to see them doing such robotic research without even asking the client about the target demographic or finding out what the user intent is.
  • Look at top 3 competition and what they’re trying to rank for
    • If your competitors are online, you can spy on them. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what they’re trying to rank for. I always start by looking through a competitor’s website. I then start writing all the keywords “I” think are important. SEMrush and Keyword planner come next.
  • Use
    • I still LOVE Answer The Public. They make keyword research even easier. They have really cool branding now, which is a nice surprise.

answer the pubic keyword research

  • Use Soovle
    • Soovle is pretty cool. You can get a quick glimpse from around the web for individual keywords.
  • Look through Google Search Console and Google Analytics
    • It’s nice to look and see if any of the primary keywords are being used to enter the site. If not, you have a lot of work to do. Search Console is a big asset from Google. I probably log in to Search Console just as much Google Analytics for my data.
  • Use Google Trends
    • Google Trends is another great tool from Google because you get to visualize the most search keywords without needing to input the city or state. They give you all the data you need when you’re looking to see how your primary keywords compare in different areas of the world.
  • Use
    • How cool is it that you can search on Google, YouTube, Bing and the App Store by simply clicking on a tab? can do that for you. A solid tool we all need to use with every campaign.


  • Research keywords on
    • Yes, I use a lot of tools to scope out the industry I am researching. SerpStat is another tool I used with every project.
  • Use Amazon
    • Amazon has amazing categories for you to go over. Take advantage of that if it’s relevant to your industry.
  • Use Quora
    • Want to know what people are asking in the industry you’re targeting? Quora is the place to find out. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole with Quora because people ask such amazing questions!
  • Order magazines specific to client
    • Seriously, magazines are really fun. You not only get time away from the screen, you can also find amazing content you can expand on online.

Audit Month 2 – Research Month 2 (2016)

Audit - Research Month 2

Something we as a group have focused on a lot is user experience. Of course, content and copy are the key factors for increasing conversion rates. Our copywriter (@nataschabruhin) and content strategist audit every word on the website and optimize for the targeted demographic.

  • Audit content/copy on website
    • After the technical SEO audit, we dive into copy and content. We will have regular meetings with the client/sales staff to ensure we have all the information we need to write the best sales copy and content possible.
  • Content strategy meeting
    • This meeting is probably the most important meeting before we really get into what’s needed in terms of content. We all get together as a team and spend the whole day researching what we can do to improve the content on the website. This might include:
      • Improving the About Us page
      • Adding a new page which did not exist before
      • Adding a new package
      • Discussing user intent and creating a content strategy around that
  • Use Buzzsumo & figure out content influencers. Use that list to advertise new content on Twitter
    • We gather a list of influencers from Buzzsumo or Ahrefs. We put their Twitter handles in a spreadsheet and create a campaign on Twitter just for them. This is a very powerful way to get influencers to write for you.
  • Skyscraper method
    • We look for content that’s already popular and has a lot of people talking. We then look at what’s missing or what we could add. Finally, we write an amazing piece of content to fill in the gaps.
  • New pages based on “want, need”
    • You would be surprised to see how many of our clients are missing important pages which could help them get more leads. Based on our research, we come up with a list pages to help with the overall ROI.

Customer research month 2 (2016)

Customer research month 2

Again, we didn’t really focus on customer research in 2014 and early 2015. This was a huge mistake and we learned from our mistakes. We just asked our clients about their demographic and went with the flow. We don’t do that anymore. We now heavily invest into finding out everything we can about who we’re targeting.

  • Buyer personas
    • Our content strategist starts creating different scenarios based in the information given by the client. Here’s a buyer persona template (LINK TO PDF) I use from HubSpot.
  • Surveys (we use Google Consumer Surveys)
    • The amount of data we gather for different clients from their own customers is amazing. We can guess all day with what works and what doesn’t work. The key is to ask the customers what they want. I love using Google Consumer Surveys because you get much more than just simple answers. You get demographic specific answers, which is the most important piece of information I can give to our clients.


Google Survey Question

  • Video UX
    • That’s right. We organize user panels and record people going through our client’s website.
  • Look for studies on industry
    • There are many studies done by other people, which we can use for our clients. For example, we work with a local gym and the amount of studies done by the government of Canada/USA helps us generate amazing content not available anywhere else on the web.
  • Develop brand strategy
    • More often than not, you’ll find clients with different branding across multiple channels. Here’s what look to answer for each client: association and experience, functional and emotional, intrinsic and original, contextual and positional, active and intentional.

SEO Checklist 2015

Full SEO Checklist

SEO Month 2 (2016)

SEO List Month 2

Our SEO list compared to 2015 has more than doubled. As you can see, we’ve gone into detail because my colleagues and I were forgetting key tasks. Let’s go through the list one by one. Remember, based on a client’s custom audit, we always add/remove tasks in this list.

  • Optimize all heading tags (h1, h2, and h3)
    • This is really basic and self-explanatory. I’ve explained this in my original SEO checklist. Make sure you put your keywords in the right places and don’t repeat your h1 tag.
  • Configure structured data within Google Search Console
  • Set preferred domain in Search Console
    • You can select the correct country in Search Console by clicking “Search Traffic”, then “International Targeting” and then finally “Country” tab.
  • Set up GA custom reports and goal tracking/segmentation
  • Look into Google My Business
    • This step should definitely be in your audit. Make sure the clients Google My Business account is set up correctly. Go to “About Google My Business” to get started.
  • Apply structured data
    • Find all events, addresses, blog posts, or products etc. and apply structured data to them.
  • Replace old meta tags
    • This is should also be in your audit. We always create a separate document in Google Drive inside a folder called “Meta Tags” (yes, we’re very organized). You should copy old tags and compare them with what you wrote. Present your meta tags to the client and watch their eyes open wide when they realize the amount of issues their meta tags used to have!
  • Add website to Bing Webmaster Tools
    • Bing Webmaster Tools is very powerful. It would be a shame not to take advantage of what they offer. They offer invaluable data if you’re serious about digital marketing.
  • Setup goal tracking
    • After your interview with your client, head over to Google Analytics/Tag Manager and set up all your goals and events.
  • Exclude all internal IPs including client office IPs
    • You have to exclude traffic data from your office and your client’s office (make sure your client knows because in most cases, traffic is going to drop.)
  • Exclude Semalt in GA
    • It’s not just Semalt anymore. We now have dozens of bots ruining our data. Head over to LunaMetrics and eliminate bot traffic.
  • If possible add/edit content to webpages/service/products
    • We no longer just improve the 7 top pages for small clients. We encourage them to pay more to have our copywriter write better copy on all important pages. Large clients have the benefit of getting all pages studied and updated by our talented copywriter.
  • Use synonyms in the copy
    • Our copywriter isn’t just there to write great copy, but also take SEO into consideration. She goes over our keyword research and makes sure there are different variations of the primary and secondary keywords. We want our client to show up for as many variations of their target keyword(s) as possible.
  • Use Siteliner to check for duplicate content
    • Duplicate content can be deadly. Use Siteliner or Copyscape and arrange content changes accordingly.
  • Use WMT (Search Console) to determine what can be fixed for mobile
    • Google Search Console gives you really good information about your website. They even tell you if your website is mobile friendly and what you should fix. Simply click on “Search Traffic” and “Mobile Usability”. You’ll see suggestions to pass onto your development team.
  • Create Industry Canada profile
    • This should really go into link building, but I like to do it early. In Canada, the government has their own directory for businesses. If you’re a Canadian business or work with a Canadian business, they need to be here.
  • Check for penalties. Does the site show up for its brand name? Use Barracuda.

Barracuda came up with a really cool tool to gauge if your website was hit with any of Google’s penalties. Definitely worth checking out for all websites you’re tracking.

Barracuda Penalty Tool

  • Check what Google has cached
    • A lot of people miss this step. Head over to Google and put and take a look at what Google has cached in their system. You never know what Google has cached until you check manually.

Google Cache

  • Check mobile search history in WMT (search console)
    • Another easy step to miss is finding out mobile search traffic. Yes, you can check this in Google Analytics. However, you shouldn’t miss Search Console with mobile data.

Search Console - Mobile Traffic

  • Go over local rankings factor
    • Moz did an amazing job with “The 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors.” Make sure you go over the whole page and take notes on how you can improve local rankings by following a simple formula.
  • Adjust bounce rate numbers
  • Use WP-Ban from
    • We all need to ban pesky IPs here and there. Yes, I put this in our SEO list because I think it’s important.
  • Exclude bots in GA
    • Don’t forget to block traffic in Google Analytics.


  • Look through audit check list once everything is completed (last)
    • Once you complete your audit checklist, go back and check everything again. This step gets repeated every time you finish a list of tasks.

Website Edits Month 2

Website Edits Month 2

Most of the website edits are done by our designer and developer. We also have an in-house server and hardware tech. They’re invaluable to our team because they not only speed up client websites, but also make sure everything is secure.

  • Caching
    • We use WP-Engine and we’re extremely happy. I suggest you host your website with them if you want security and speed.
  • Image optimization
    • Try to keep images under 200 KB. Use Photoshop or GIMP to reduce image size.
  • Gzip
  • Minify CSS/JS files
    • Try to get every millisecond you can by minifying your code.
  • Add/Edit sitemaps
    • More than 90% of the time, a new client will not have a sitemap or an incorrect sitemap. If you don’t know how to do it, Yoast will generate one automatically for you.
  • Install Google Page Speed Mod
    • If you know what you’re doing, you can install Google PageSpeed module to optimize your site automatically.
  • Can silo structure be used
    • More often than not, a client will have the wrong website structure. Once you know what the user intent is, you might want to change their website structure. If so, the best way to do this is to use a silo structure.

Benchmark Your Online Marketing Campaign

Benchmarking a campaign is very important. However, it’s not as important as the SEO audit and keyword research, which will take up your first month. My benchmark list didn’t change at all from our 2015 list, as you can see below.

Digital Marketing Benchmark

  • Add client to Bright Local (used to be White Spark)
    • What can I say? Bright Local has been great to us. Instead of hiring anyone or doing tedious citation building in-house, we pay a small fee to Bright Local. They get it done right and I will not hesitate to recommend them to all of you.
  • Keyword Rankings [Month]
    • We use to track local/national keyword rankings. It’s really strange not talking about keyword rankings with clients since it was everything just a few years ago. It’s all about leads and revenue now.
  • Backlinks
    • You need to know where your website is before you start building links. We use to benchmark where our client is. Of course, you can use spy on competitors. They also have other amazing tools like content explorer, position tracker and more.
  • Use Screaming Frog to crawl website
    • Can’t say enough about screaming frog. Their crawling tool probably helps thousands of SEOs do a better job.
  • Extract all title tags
    • Extract all title tags to compare later on. You need to extract the title tags more often than once because you’ll probably test more than one title tag.
  • Extract description tags
    • Same rule applies to description tags.
  • Audit redirects
    • If there is a site migration, make sure all redirects are setup correctly.
    • Get crawl path report.


  • Check canonical errors
    • Find canonical errors by selecting reports > canonical errors


  • Use IIS to crawl website
  • Take IIS suggestions and create a new doc of recommendations
    • Create a separate doc in Google Drive in your main audit folder and write down all the recommendations to implement later.
  • Add client to AWR desktop tool
    • AWR Cloud is great, but when I want on-the-fly ranking reports for prospective clients, I use their desktop tool.
  • Check mobile rankings
    • We all know how important mobile rankings are. With AWR Cloud and AWR Desktop, you can check both.


Link Building

Of course, link building is still one of the top five ranking factors out there. Link building is time consuming, expensive and very difficult. All clients must understand that link building is not guaranteed and can take up to a year to perfect. Also, a link building campaign can change drastically throughout the year. That’s why it’s essential to meet with the team prior to starting any link building campaign and brainstorm ideas.


link building-2016

  • Meet about how to build links
    • Because link building is important, we have to meet as a team and find out where we can find links for a client. For example, a hotel client would hugely benefit by being on travel blogs or travel magazines. Make sure you meet and create your own tasks for link building for each and every client.
  • Use Xenu to extract all links
    • Xenu will crawl an entire website and sniff out irregularities.
  • Look through competitor links
    • By using tools like Ahrefs, you can sniff out links from competitor websites. Make sure you look at international sites in the same industry. You never know what you might find.
  • Look at links to disavow if any
    • Go through each and every link a client has. Pick out bad seeds and create a list of links to disavow. Be very careful with this because you can disrupt rankings if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Check internal linking strategy
    • Why we skip this is beyond me. We have clients with great external links and horrible internal links. You might as well look at this first before you start anything else because it is very important.
  • Create a piece of audio and submit to different websites (use Vocaroo)
    • Here’s a list you can start with:
      • (PR6)
      • (PR7)
      • (PR5)
      • (PR5)
    • Can we donate to any website? Can we sponsor someone for a link?
      • Use these search parameters to find golden opportunities:
        • “donate to us”
        • “contributors page”
        • “sponsors page”
        • allintitle: “contributors”
        • allintitle: “sponsors”
      • Submit site for feedback
        • You can not only get links from these sites, but great suggestions from other people. Here’s a few to get you started
          • (PR3)
          • (PR5)
          • (PR4)
          • (PR3)
        • Submit blog to blog directories
          • Don’t go out and submit your blog to every site on the web. Here’s a list of 23 blog directories to get you started.
        • Broken link building
          • Broken link building is an art and very hard to master. However, when you do get the hang of it, you’re sure to see great results. Here’s how I find great places to place a link:
            • “keyword” + “resource page”
            • “keyword” + “resources”
            • “keyword” + “recommended sites”
            • “keyword” + “links”
          • Check out “The Broken Link Building Bible” (a smaller easier to digest version of broken link building) and you’ll see what I mean by powerful.
        • Examine industry, find holes, and create content to pitch
          • Building links isn’t all about tricks. Sometimes, you have to find out what’s missing in a given industry and create great content.
        • Gather a list of journalist in industry and advertise to them on twitter
          • You can gather a list from BuzzSumo and add that list on Twitter to advertise to- huge for PR!
        • Can content be offered to .gov or .edu sites
          • There are dozens of ways to get links from government and educational websites
            • Offer a scholarship
            • Leave comments on their blog
            • Find a student who writes their own blog
            • Offer studies to governments
          • Use WikiGrabber
            • What’s better than a link from Wikipedia? They need citations and broken links are littered all over Wikipedia. This tool is a great way to get started.
          • Get links from city
            • Sometimes, a client can offer something a city needs. Our hotel example is great because some cities have a page where visitors can stay. Find out what your clients offer and see if the city they operate in will use their link.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, our list has greatly improved in terms of “digital marketing” since 2015. It’s not about SEO anymore. SEO is really a small part of a larger conglomerate for a marketing campaign. And as you’ve noticed, we work in 4 month increments. Once everything is complete, we go back to the drawing board and try to improve even more.


I hope this list helps you understand how an agency creates and schedules tasks.


Did I miss anything? Do you want to add anything to our list? Let’s talk below and make this list even better.