Practical Ecommerce

SEO: Which Pages to Optimize First?

Deciding which pages to optimize for search engines can so paralyze marketers that they sometimes end up optimizing nothing.

To optimize a page, edit the text that search engines place the most priority on: the title tag, meta description, heading, and body content. My SEO 101 primer, “Part 8: Content Optimization,” goes into more detail on each element.

Use the guidelines below to prioritize the content on your site so you can focus on the areas that will improve organic search performance most, driving more consumers to your site to convert.

Business Goals

Using business goals to determine the content to optimize is the hands-down favorite of management. Resources are most quickly approved when projects align with the key initiatives every team is working together to achieve. Optimizing content that supports those business goals will naturally be high on the list of content to optimize.

When business goals align with the products and features that consumers already seek, SEO can be an important channel for driving sales.

At times, however, business goals may be focused on raising awareness of a new product category or an entirely new concept. Keep in mind that SEO requires consumers to enter phrases into a search engine, and potential customers can’t search for something that they’re not aware of.

When business goals align with the products and features that consumers already seek, SEO can be an important channel for driving sales.

Other marketing channels need to raise awareness for new concepts and cutting edge products before SEO can be an effective channel. When content is created for these other channels, optimize that content as best you can for the phrases that searchers will most likely use, so that it can drive organic search performance as awareness grows.

In summary, while business goals should absolutely play a part in determining which content to optimize, it shouldn’t be the only criterion.

Site Hierarchy

The main header navigation offers another easy way to prioritize pages to optimize. Pages linked from the header navigation receive the most internal authority and therefore typically have the strongest chance of ranking well. These pages are an excellent place to start, to avoid becoming mired down in analysis paralysis.

However, if those pages have already been optimized, tweaking them again without analyzing their performance and potential may do more harm than good.

Performance and Potential

When the SEO program moves beyond the initial stage of optimizing the first pages, the only effective way to prioritize content for optimization to drive the most new customers is comparing performance and potential.

A combination of visits, conversions, rankings, and keyword data can quickly and objectively identify the pages that are most likely to drive the most customers.

SEO performance data tells you what you already have. A page driving a lot of visits and conversions compared to other pages on a site may already be better optimized. You might not want to risk harming a page’s performance by “optimizing” it when it’s already doing well. Look for pages that are performing in the middle of the pack — those that drive some traffic but aren’t your top-performing pages.

A combination of visits, conversions, rankings, and keyword data can quickly and objectively identify the pages that are most likely to drive the most customers.

Rankings data tells you which pages might be easier to move into a position where they would drive more traffic. Pages that are already ranking at the bottom of page one of search engine results, or the top of page two, are the sweet spot to target for optimization. A page ranking on page three or beyond in the search results will likely be harder to improve enough to drive noticeable traffic. But a page already ranking at the bottom of page one or the top of page two may have a higher likelihood of improving its ranking position enough to matter.

Along with performance data, compare keyword research data to identify the potential upside to optimizing a page. Optimizing pages that target low-demand phrases, or phrases that few people search for, will likely yield very little performance increase.

In short, look for pages that (a) already rank at the bottom of page one or the top of page two, (b) that drive some traffic but aren’t the highest performers, and (c) that keyword research shows have significant amounts of search demand.  In objective terms, these pages are the ones to prioritize for optimization.

But you’ll likely have to apply a subjective filter, too, based on what you know about your business goals, your competition, seasonality, upcoming plans for the site, and so on.

Enterprise SEO platforms compare objective data through their own custom algorithms to recommend pages to optimize. If you have the budget for BrightEdge, Searchmetrics, Rio SEO, or other similar tools, they can do the manual work of identifying high priority pages for you. However, it’s always a good idea to know how to do it manually when you have to.

Duplicate and Default Title Tags

Title tags are one of the most important ranking signals on a page. If the title tags haven’t been optimized, the rest of the page likely hasn’t either.

Looking at title tags across the site is an easy way to find pages that haven’t been optimized at any point. A crawl of your site using software like Xenu’s Link Sleuth (which is free) or Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider (which is not free but has more features) will reveal every title tag the crawler can access. Sorting the title tags alphabetically quickly identifies large clusters of pages that all have the same title tag, or are using a suboptimal default title tag spit out by your platform.

Every page expected to drive organic search customers must have a unique title tag that is relevant to the content on that page in order to send a strong relevance signal to search engines. If multiple pages are using the same title tag, they are not each sending a unique relevance signal and should be optimized to do so.

Jill Kocher
Jill Kocher
Bio  |  RSS Feed


Get the Practical Ecommerce RSS feed

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Berry Fialkowski December 22, 2015 Reply

    Definitely one of the best and easy to understand SEO guides i have come across. Its simple and to the point. Thumbs up!!!

  2. Jessica December 22, 2015 Reply

    Now if only I could get my boss to give me the hours in a day to get started implementing this stuff I’d be golden. Thanks Jill. Tucking this in my cap for when he does.

Email Newsletter Signup

Sign up to receive EcommerceNotes, our acclaimed email newsletter.
And receive a free copy of our ebook
50 Great Ecommerce Ideas