Let’s face the truth. You might have spent all that time last year learning how to review websites, identify the SEO problems with it and come up with your usual solutions but the truth that SEO has changed.
You have seen changes all along the way, all those gradual updates that search engines made to cull out certain practices. Google’s own Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird and other milestones along the way charted the progress of stricter rules to play the game by. All the while, links were the mainstay of those of us who have been sticking to white hat practices. Long-term success has and always been the holy grail for SEO consultants.
Now that Google has literally become an online continent in itself with an astounding 92% of all online activity beginning with a search engine, they in turn have become more involved and engaged with the online junta with the objective of making us work for links by providing genuine, informative and relevant content. Clearly the landscape has always been changing, evolving into a higher order of existence and your ‘SEO Action Plan for 2016’ has to be re-visited. Here is my take on the essentials SEO consultants should pack on this journey.
Step 1: Writing Actions To Be Done
As they say, the first step to learning is to take notes. The most important things that should be done in terms of onsite activities, as well as off site activities and link-building should be written down. A typical list of onsite areas of action would look like this.
- Meta Tags if required
- Content Optimisation
- HTML Error Elimination
- Internal Linking
- Keywords Targeting
- Page Loading Speed
- Error Pages
- External Linking
- Conversion Optimisation
Once you have rolled up your sleeves and got into the thick of the above areas of action, next, start listing out your off site activities and link building areas of action. Here is my list of things to be done:
- Analysis of current links
- Disavow/Removal of low quality links
- Examine Anchor Text Variations
- Sitewide v/s Non Sitewide links
- Do-follow Vs No-follow
- How to build more links? (This question has become the bane of SEO)
- Guest Posting (Be careful, rumors of hitting guest posts are hot)
- Local Directories (to be identified and fed)
- Free Blogs (Always welcome, though on a slightly cautious note)
- Social Sharing (Google is falling deeper in love with it!)
- Local Forums Participation
- Press Releases
Step 2: Prioritizing Actions
In military manuals, it is occasionally suggested that you use your most powerful weapon on the most immediate enemy. Similarly for SEO, when it comes to prioritising actions, you should begin with dealing with the largest spectre to loom over the horizon, that of penalties. Google hates smart alecks who think they can ‘beat the system.’ All they want is good, honest, hard work those who take shortcuts are frowned upon.
Action 1, Penalties:
Your most immediate concern is to rid the site of any existing penalties. Any attempt to SEO boost a penalised site will be like throwing good SEO after bad SEO. Say nothing of the fact that the spectre of compound penalties looming on the horizon. Lapses in your algorithms can get you a penalty and force you into a manual review. Any issues that might crop up there will lead to further reviews and your existing problems will simply multiply.
Let’s look at them individually.
Manual Penalties: Manual penalties are the top reason for websites to disappear in search results. Getting out of such a situation would require submission of reconsideration requests to Google. Keep in mind that any lapses or oversights that might cause you to leave something out of the request will result in a denied request.
Algorithmic Penalties: If you observe lesser organic traffic to your site, it could be caused by an algorithmic penalty. Your keywords will still do their work for you but in spite of their presence, overall flow will dip. You can take a look for yourself to find out if your site has a penalty with the help of Moz’s handy log of algorithm changes. This reference will allow you to examine the changes made by Google that coincide with your drop in traffic.
Potential Penalties: Not surprisingly, web sites don’t give too much importance to such penalties. Define potential penalties as the feeling of dread when you notice a doorway page. Unusual links and stuffing, keywords is like an invitation for a potential penalty to soon get converted into an active one.
Action 2, Non-Ranking Pages:
Links that snap and content that looks like it has been plagiarised are bad news. Also if your redirects do not function properly, then all these factors will compel Google to skip or ignore pages entirely. Often, site owners wrongly blame keyword stuffing when they can’t find their page with searches for relevant keywords. However, content won’t make a feather of a difference unless it has been indexed.
The two main reasons for this are:
Inferior Link Structure: Always overlooked, the internal linking structure of a site is key to the sites visibility to search engines. Think of the pages on your site as the branches on a tree. Working upwards from the main trunk of the tree, search engines have an increasingly harder time to get to the sub-branches connected to the main branches. The further you get from the main trunk and the deeper your pages, the more hidden your pages are.
Replicated or Poor-quality Content: When content appears under more than one URL, search engines are at a loss to decide which to query. While duplicate content is not entirely avoidable, you should at least ensure that none of your content is of poor quality.
Action 3, Social Sharing:
As mentioned earlier, Google’s benevolent gaze looks kindly upon hard work. Social sharing has come to stay and 2016 looks to be a year with the most social sharing ever reported before. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr accounts are becoming mandatory for most websites. However, the thing you should not overlook is the shelf life of what you share.
Knowing your customer’s needs, habits and personality can enable you to create your own blend of content that represents this knowledge. Also pay attention the schedule of sharing according to the kind of customers you have.
Keep it short and sweet. Like the man who got a job by describing himself in one word (‘Succinct’) instead of the 100 word limit on the interview questionnaire, brevity is the key to unlock the limitations of social sharing. Incidentally, it has been seen that posts that are under 80 characters enjoy 66% more attention.
Step 3: Estimate Cost
I have used the word ‘cost’ because money is the most universal counter for comparing the effort spent between employee involvement, outside resources, and tools. SEO recommendations ubiquitously require manual labour, often carried out by in-house workers. As always, companies are more likely to measure the time to implement as effort. Your definition of ‘cost’ will make much more sense if it is defined in the same way they’re used to seeing it.
Again, most companies are happy with a scale ranging from high to medium to low. However, with enough experience of how the company thinks, more precise estimates will make it prioritization easier.
Step 4: Keep A Constant Check
Even if you pick the right team, pay close attention to their actual activities. This exercise could be as less as a few hours per month or more, but in whichever measure, it can save you hundreds of hours spent later in ridding yourself of penalties. Remember, it is better to spend a little more time planning at the start and get it right in execution than it is to interrupt your plan to deal with penalties.
I hope that following these steps above will start the ball rolling and keep you in high scores in 2016. Here’s wishing you a Happy SEO New Year!
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