TL;DR – Score the Impact, Confidence, & Effort of technical SEO tickets out of 5. Apply in the following equation (Impact x Confidence)/Effort and use resulting scores to prioritise which tickets you do first.
What is the ICE framework?
The ICE framework is a method of scoring development tickets in order to determine prioritisation. It scores any technical SEO ticket on three factors, impact, confidence, and effort.
The overall ICE prioritisation score is calculated by (Impact x Confidence) / Effort (based on the scoring system below).
What is the perceived impact on your desired outcome that this technical ticket can have?
1 – Low impact
5 – High impact
This can be based on general experience, however, becomes much more powerful when combined with case studies of results and likelihoods of having the desired impact.
Updating a small number of internal links from 301s to 200s – Impact 1
Server side rendering category pages – Impact 5
How confident are you that this technical ticket will achieve the perceived impact?
1 – Low confidence (unlikely to achieve desired outcome)
5 – High confidence (likely to achieve desired outcome)
Combined with the impact score, confidence determines how likely the technical ticket will achieve the desired outcome.
Blocking filter parameter URLs – Impact 4 Confidence 2
Could have a big impact in theory, but past implementation has not let to significant increases in organic sessions which is the desired outcome.
Updating a small number of page titles – Impact 2 Confidence 4
Unlikely to have a large impact given the small number of pages, but confident that optimising these pages titles will have at least a small impact.
Server side rendering category pages – Impact 5 Confidence 5
Very likely to have a big impact and based on previous implementation, very confident in the desired impact being this large.
What is the combined effort needed from all teams to implement this ticket?
1- Low effort (easy to implement)
5 – High effort (hard to implement)
This can be both the effort of your internal SEO team to gather the required information, as well as the perceived effort of the development team to implement the changes.
The ideal scenario will be to sit down with the dev team you are working with to agree on an Effort score to ensure prioritisation is aligned with reality. Every website will have different capabilities and different teams meaning effort scoring can differ significantly between websites & teams, even for the same ticket.
Server side rendering – often requires significant changes to website setup from the development team. Effort – 5
Global navigation changes – requires significant effort from the SEO team to pull required information about pages, but generally fairly easy to update on common CMS. Effort – 3
Redirecting a small number of 404s – requires little effort from SEO team to map redirects, and little effort from dev team on common CMS. Effort – 1
N.B. We have used the phrase “desired outcome” in place of SEO impact/organic traffic since the scoring will depend on what you are trying to achieve. If your goal is to achieve organic revenue increases then changing meta descriptions may have a low Impact score, whereas if your goal is to increase Click Through Rate this may have a much higher impact score.
How to use ICE in SEO strategy
How to use ICE for quick wins
Quick wins are often useful to prove value in SEO, and tend to be smaller tickets that are easy to do, but have a relatively large impact. Despite not having the largest overall priority scores based on the ICE framework, you can front-load these tasks to provide immediate value.
Impact – high
Confidence – high
Effort – low
Example – page title changes across all category pages
Impact – 4
Confidence – 4
Effort – 2
ICE score – (4×4)/2 = 8
How to use ICE for main projects
Main projects form the bulk of your technical SEO work and are likely to drive the biggest results. However, unlike quick wins they also likely require high efforts from either the SEO team, dev team, or both.
Agree with your client/internal team whether you want to start your strategy with your main projects, or first provide value with quick wins, as main projects may take significantly longer to see results.
Impact – high
Confidence – high
Effort – high
Example – server side rendering
Impact – 5
Confidence – 5
Effort – 5
ICE score – (5×5)/5 = 5
How to use ICE for SEO tests
SEO tests are items that could potentially drive large impact for the site, however, are relatively un-defined in theory. They could lead to large outcomes, but equally could result in little change to the desired outcome.
Benefits of using the ICE framework for SEO
We have found using the ICE framework extremely useful at prioritising technical SEO tickets at NOVOS.
- Provides a clear hierarchy of prioritisation
The ICE framework is complex enough to give a good prioritisation score, whilst being simple enough to be universally understood.
- Emphasizes why we want to push some tickets
Rather than just “because” we can explain why certain tickets are preferred.
- Includes relevant factors often not considered
Whilst in theory the changes with the biggest impact should always be high on the agenda, this doesn’t consider capacity, nor effort. The ICE framework ensures relevant factors that often impede implementation are considered ahead of time.
- Encourages collaboration
Being able to discuss technical tickets with tangible numbers with different teams shares different perspectives and ensures all teams are aligned and agree on the plan.
- Sets expectations
All teams should know and understand which strategy they opt for – big impact tickets often have high effort associated with them and thus it is understood they are likely to take more time. Rather than expecting results straight away, all parties are clear on the approach based on the ICE framework scoring.
Issues when using the ICE metric for SEO prioritisation
The main functional issue we have faced when using the ICE metric is that overall prioritisation score is significantly impacted by effort.
This means that smaller impact tickets, or quick wins, may have a higher overall score, despite not being the tickets that will drive the desired outcome (often performance) in the medium-long term.
This is where consulting and communication is required to agree on a clear approach and strategy. However, the overall ICE prioritisation gives a clear score in about 80% of situations.
Other smaller potential issues to consider include:
- Dev effort not aligning with effort score – make sure to talk to your dev teams to make sure the effort score you give is legitimate!
ICE equation additions/changes
You may want to add additional factors into this equation in order to make results more accurate for your situation, or to align with how your internal team or client operates. Potential additions include:
- Size (of task)
- Time (to see impact)
- Ease (to replace Effort) – make sure to update your equation to reflect this)