Effective search engine optimization takes preparation and planning. Random action produces haphazard results.
Here’s how to make your SEO plans come to life in 2020.
The first step is to have a vision for your business and a corresponding set of marketing goals.
SEO goals are a subset. They define your long-term organic search vision. Consider applying the SMART framework: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Assign a specific owner to an area of improvement with a timeline for completion. SEO goals must be measurable with data.
The first step is to have a vision for your business and a corresponding set of marketing goals. SEO goals are a subset.
To avoid burnout, make your goals realistic. Unachievable goals, or goals that are unrelated to your company’s mission, encourage unproductive behavior. Conversely, goals should be enough of a stretch to inspire the team to perform.
Research your site’s organic search performance and the elements that contribute to it. Auditing your site can feel overwhelming, but it’s critical to understand your starting point.
Technology, content, and internal linking structures are all intertwined. Changes to one area affect the others. You could easily optimize, say, your ecommerce platform for conversions and decrease your organic search performance.
- Performance. Start with the landing page report in your web analytics program. This will identify which pages on your site drive your organic search traffic. Visits and conversions are key performance indicators. Switch to the “Performance” report in Google Search Console for reliable keyword-based data. Analyze high-performing pages and keywords. More importantly, look for areas of improvement. Perhaps every page in a section attracts fewer visitors. Or maybe keywords for one product perform more poorly than the others. Identifying these deficiencies helps focus your efforts.
- Technical. For underperforming pages or products, technical roadblocks are the first place to look. Examine search engines’ ability to crawl your site as well as your site’s indexability. Next, consider other technical factors, such as site speed, HTTPS security, duplicate content, and structured data.
- Content. Analyze the content on your site and the degree to which it reflects the interests and intent of shoppers based on your keyword research. Remember to focus on the templates that underpin each page of content to identify scalable opportunities to optimize every page at once. For example, one template could be optimized in six ways to improve performance for all category pages.
- Backlinks. Google Search Console’s “Links” reports provide downloadable lists of every site or page that links to yours. Sift through the data to determine the size and quality of your link profile. Look for links from low-quality sites or signs that many of the links come from other sites that your company owns. Part of your 2020 strategy should focus on acquiring more high-quality, external links.
- Competitive. Lastly, assess your organic search competitors. They are often different from obvious industry counterparts. Organic-search competitors are the sites that rank where you want to be. Identify the areas that produce those rankings, to learn.
Based on the SEO audits of your site and your competitors, develop projects to improve performance. Look at your site’s technology, content, and backlinks.
Which of those areas – or a combination – is likely to produce the boost to meet your SEO goals? Which product launches, site enhancements, holidays, or seasonal high points do you need to plan around?
The combination of projects and business priorities forms your SEO strategy. Scheduling them across the year creates your roadmap.
Budget is another factor. If the budget is set already, it may limit the progress, especially if you have lofty goals.
Your strategy and roadmap may look good on paper. Likely, however, both will morph over the year as the business changes, competitors enhance their SEO performance, and search engines update algorithms. Plan for success but revisit the plan throughout the year. Adjust if necessary.