How do you answer a question as big as, “Where should our company start with SEO?”
There are, quite literally, hundreds of SEO activities you could perform — on-page optimization tactics, link building, technical improvements, and everything in between. Layer on top of that the reality that every website, industry, and business is distinct, carrying their own unique set of challenges and opportunities.
With so many possible activities in a field where one size doesn’t fit all, it’s no wonder it can be difficult to know where to start with SEO.
If the thought of these endless possibilities has you overwhelmed — don’t worry, it’s normal — but it’s now time to prioritize. SEO prioritization is all about choosing your tasks wisely so you can avoid spinning your wheels and spending all your time on projects that don’t move the needle.
This guide will help you select the tasks that’ll make the most impact, so not only will you be less overwhelmed, but you’ll be maximizing your results as well!
Start With Your Goals
Long before you touch a title tag, edit a landing page, or add structured data markup, you need to identify your goals. In other words, before you start any SEO initiative, you need to be able to answer the question, “What are our business goals, and how is the website being used to achieve them?”
Remember, SEO performance is not an end unto itself. It’s a vehicle to help your business accomplish its goals. Any SEO tactics that are divorced from your goals will only produce vanity metrics, rather than real growth.
If you haven’t identified your goals yet, now’s the time! Here are some tips to get you started:
Make sure your goals are S-M-A-R-T! Goals should always be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
Create stretch goals. Set goals outside your comfort zone. While you can share your “achievable” goals with your clients, setting a personal stretch goal can actually give you the motivation you need to deliver above and beyond what was promised.
Share your goals. Don’t keep your goals bottled up! Make your goals tangible by writing them down, and hold yourself accountable by sharing them with others.
Identify Key Pages
Do you know which pages on your site are driving the most conversions? Once you know your goals, it’s important to identify which pages on your website most directly contribute toward achieving those goals.
For example, if you have a goal to increase organic leads by 10 percent over the next six months, you’ll want to identify which pages have conversion forms.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that there’s only one of these pages on your site — the contact page. Not only do you want to make sure the contact page is easy to use, but you’ll also want to figure out what paths your site visitors take to get to the contact page, and optimize those common paths as well. To do that, check out the Reverse Goal Paths report in Google Analytics.
An example of a common path might be that a visitor first lands on your site by way of a blog post, perhaps one written specifically to rank for target keywords relevant to what your business offers. From there, they might click over to a service page or your “about” page. After reviewing some mid-funnel content about your business, they navigate to the contact page and complete a form.
Prioritizing improvements to your conversion pages, and the pages that commonly assist conversions, is a surefire way you can use SEO to achieve your goals.
Check for Technical Roadblocks
Even the best pages won’t achieve your goals if technical errors are holding your site back. That’s why it’s critical to uncover these issues from the get-go. You can think of this step as the regular maintenance your website needs in order to avoid breaking down.
While you could check a lot of things manually, it saves a ton of time to perform this step with help from a site crawl tool. I recommend Moz Pro, Screaming Frog, and DeepCrawl, but there are plenty on the market that could assist you in this area.
If you’re not familiar, here’s an overview of what a site crawl tool does:
Site Crawl Tools
- Scan all the pages on your site
- Collect data on those pages
- Organize that data into reports
- Alert you to technical issues
An example error you could discover during an audit could be that your important pages have a <meta name="robots" content="noindex"> tag, essentially saying that you don’t want those pages listed in search results!
As important as this step is, there’s a very real possibility that you will come away with hundreds or even thousands of issues you need to address, leaving you overwhelmed yet again. But fear not! The next step is all about how to manage your time effectively.
Manage Your Time Effectively
When you have a huge list of items on your to-do list, it’s easy for everything to seem like it carries equal weight — and when everything is a priority, nothing really is.
You can avoid this trap by implementing Stephen Covey’s time management grid:
There will always be urgent tasks that require your immediate attention, but always remember to set aside time for those important but non-urgent tasks! Otherwise, you’ll always be reacting, never proactively working on achieving your goals.
But how do you decide what’s important and what’s not important?
Remember your key pages? Now that you’ve identified your conversion pages, as well as the most popular paths visitors take to get there, you can prioritize technical issues by determining whether or not they’re affecting these critical pages.
You can also prioritize tasks according to the total number of issues in each category. Sometimes volume is a great indicator of importance.
Analyze Results and Communicate Progress Often
If you’re performing SEO on a business’s website (as opposed to your personal website), it’s critical to be transparent regarding your progress and results, and communicate those things often. That type of communication will naturally foster a sense of trust with your boss, your client, or other website stakeholders. Without that trust, you may not be given the opportunity to see your SEO tasks through to completion.
Frequently analyzing results will also allow you to see which optimizations are performing well and deserve further investment, and with which initiatives you may need to reverse course. Seeing what’s performing (or not) can make it much easier to set and prioritize future tasks.
When analyzing and reporting on results, just remember to pick KPIs (key performance indicators) that measure your specific SEO actions. Each type of action will have different KPIs, so choose appropriately! Be sure you can demonstrate how the results get you closer to achieving your goals. Metrics that aren’t tied to goals are just vanity metrics.
Last of all, know your audience. Take your boss or client’s unique personality into consideration, and create a communication and reporting strategy that’s tailored to them. Speak their language and stay focused on what they view as most important.
Getting started with SEO can seem daunting, but if search is an important channel for your business, it’s worthwhile.
Once essential optimizations have been made, you can focus on taking a more proactive approach to SEO. In the long term, you’ll be able to expand your SEO strategy beyond tackling implementation. This might include initiatives like integrating more closely with your content marketing team, utilizing organic search data to inform UX, and undertaking off-page optimizations, just to name a few.
But if you’ve been wondering where you should begin, now you know — start with the tasks that are uniquely important to your website!
Armed with these prioritization tips, you’ll be ready to squash that overwhelmed feeling and get to work on the SEO activities that’ll make the biggest impact for your business.