Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical for everyone and anyone that has a website. An SEO-ready site is much more likely to outrank competitors in search engines, and search engines still dictate at least 50% of online traffic.
In last week’s #SEMrushchat, we discussed all the different elements that make a solid SEO strategy. We were joined by Sam McRoberts, the CEO of SEO agency VUDU Marketing. Sam had incredible advice about how to build an SEO strategy from the ground up, and our other chat participants had a lot of excellent wisdom to share as well.
Ready to get your SEO strategy in good shape? Let’s get started!
Q1. What would be the first SEO tactic that you would implement on your or your client’s website in 2018?
It is important to note that a site audit isn’t a one-and-done step in your SEO arsenal. Regular audits are crucial to evaluate your SEO efforts moving forward, and you can’t afford to skip them.
For new and old sites alike, you will want to start with “foundational” SEO. This means getting the basics of your site up to standard with things like keyword optimization, meta descriptions, site architecture, on-page optimization, linking to reputable sites, etc. It is hard to be successful, after all, without the basics in place; there is no point trying to build a house on a broken-down foundation.
Part of that foundation will also mean building your site’s structure like you would a foundation of the house. You want to utilize consistent URL structures, structured data, and strong canonicals. If your site is already built and your audit reveals problems in any of these key areas, fix them fast.
Keyword optimization is also an important part of SEO, so taking the time to do thorough research about the keywords your audience is searching for will do you a lot of favors. Go ahead and create a page for each product or service that you offer, optimizing each page with competitive keywords. Once you do this, you can start looking for long-tail keywords indicating questions users are asking, and provide answers through keyword-optimized FAQs or content marketing. While the technical stuff matters to Google, after all, SEO is also about optimizing for human behavior in the long run, too.
Q2. How can SEOs simplify the process of fixing mistakes?
It is never fun to find mistakes that need to be fixed, especially when they can be as complicated as those related to SEO. That being said, there are several excellent ways that an SEO can simplify the process of fixing mistakes, saving themselves a major headache in the long run.
Having the right tools on hand is an important place to start. SEMrush’s Site Audit tool will go a long way in helping you stay up to date about what problems need fixing. This way, you can address problems early on, instead of six months after they have been damaging your SERP rankings.
It is also significantly easier to fix small problems over time as they appear, instead of trying to address a laundry list of mistakes in enormous chunks. Because of this, expert Sam McRoberts recommends having daily, weekly, and monthly checklists of tasks to accomplish.
On that same note, McRoberts also recommends that all team members in relevant departments are given SEO training. This includes web designers, content marketers, and even social media teams or PR managers. Anyone who is interacting or affecting SEO should have a solid understanding of how it works and why it is so important.
How you approach fixing mistakes will also go a long way. You should have a clear solution with a direct cause and effect reasoning behind it. This should involve KPIs and specific tactics that are backed up by data and created based on exact, measurable goals. All of this together will give you solutions that you can track for effectiveness after you implement changes, allowing you to monitor progress and make sure you are on the right track.
At the end of the day, writing for customers and not just for search engines can actually work to your benefit. If someone is determined to find an answer to a question and your site has a solution, you will already be pulling ahead of the competition.
Q3. Which metrics should an SEO focus on when measuring the quality of organic traffic?
Measuring your strategy’s performance will help you assess its effectiveness and progress, giving you the information you need about how to continue to move forward. To do this, you need to be measuring the right things and knowing which metrics to watch will make a world of difference.
When measuring the quality of the organic traffic your SEO is bringing in, bounce rate will almost always be one of the metrics. If your bounce rates are high and the time spent on your pages is low, your content isn’t being consumed. This could either be an indication that you are not meeting your audience’s needs or you’re not attracting the right audience. Similarly, if users are visiting other pages, it shows that the content was engaging and relevant enough to keep them moving.
There are several other metrics that gauge audience interest, which include social shares, on-site engagement, number of impressions, and your percentage of returning users.
Taking a look at your overall clicks and CTR rates will give you insight into how engaging your audience finds your content. Evaluate how these metrics are holding up against your conversions, which can include email sign-ups, leads reaching out to book an appointment or direct sales. Conversions, after all, are always the end goal of any marketing campaign, and it is important to try to tie your SEO efforts directly to revenue.
Q4. What must-have tools (apart from Google Analytics) should SEOs use to accumulate data?
Google Analytics is a given when you want to gather data on your SEO efforts, but it is not the only tool that businesses and SEOs should be using. Our chat participants shared some of their favorite must-have tools that we should be using to collect data on our current SEO efforts, here is what they suggested:
- SEMrush’s site audit tool, which gives you a detailed look at what’s working and what’s not. It can even help you prioritize which issues you need to address first. You can even organize this data into an Excel doc that can be easily shared with your team.
- SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool for keyword data and keyword suggestions.
- Deep Crawl can help you understand your site’s architecture and look for errors that need to be addressed.
- Screaming Frog
- GTmetrix, which can give you information on site optimization and performance.
- Majestic and URL Profiler can help you track and analyze backlinks, allowing you to evaluate your link building efforts.
- Ubersuggest for keyword research.
- Buzzsumo can also show you what content for any given term or keyword is getting the most traction online, which is valuable data you can use to your advantage.
- Google’s Search Console, Quora, and Answer the Public are all fantastic forums that can give you an idea of what users are looking for, which is an essential part of SEO research.
Q5. When it comes to technical SEO, which data should marketers measure and analyze regularly? What can they skip?
Throughout the chat, it was clear that our experts and chat participants all agreed that regular monitoring and evaluating was an essential part of building a strong SEO strategy. When it comes to the technical side of SEO, we wanted to know which data marketers felt had to be measured regularly.
Mobile responsiveness was one of the first things chat participants mentioned. With 52% of website traffic coming through mobile phones in 2018, there is no getting around the fact that mobile-ready sites are a necessity. Your sites should be fully responsive, with a mobile version of the site design available if necessary to improve usability. If you see that mobile users are leaving your site quickly, but desktop users aren’t, make sure the mobile version of your site is up to par.
On a similar note, you can’t afford to have a slow site loading speed. Slow speeds will directly impact your SEO score, and they can cause you to lose the traffic that did manage to find you despite that. Track your site loading speeds frequently.
Crawl budgets— which tell you how often Google’s bots are crawling your site, will be crucial, especially for larger sites. Your crawl budget will tell you how many pages on your site Google will crawl on any given day. If they are crawling your site too much, you could see a hit on site loading speed. If they don’t crawl enough, they could be missing site updates. Watch this carefully.
You also want to keep a close eye on signs of structural fractures in your SEO. Take a close look at your canonical tags, and make sure that there are no broken links or redirects happening.
You also want to regularly check to make sure that your content is being properly rendered and understood by bots. Great SERPs don’t make much of a difference if the bots are rendering your content all wrong. To check on this, you can use Google’s Fetch and Render tool.
As for skipping metrics? That is a little more tricky. This will vary by site, audience, and industry, along with the business’s specific goals. Most metrics will give you at least some insight into how your SEO is performing; there aren’t as many vanity metrics with SEO as there are on other platforms like PPC or social advertising. It is better to be safe than sorry, and focus on the metrics that matter most, but also, don't ignore anything just because it is not center stage.
That is all for today! Make sure you join us this week as we discuss "How to Create a Killer PPC Campaign in 2018" with special guest, Kirk Williams!