It’s very rare to come across a website which not in need of some sort of help when it comes to SEO. Whether that’s technical, content, links or any other of a number of SEO actions most sites need to work on.
When we start working with a new client, we undergo some rigorous auditing to establish a baseline and to understand the key areas that are letting a website down and stopping it from reaching its full potential when it comes to ranking organically. From these audits (technical, keyword research, content, links) we usually come out with a series of recommendations across each of the areas. Sometimes there might be 5 or 6 recommendations under each of the audits, but invariably, there tends to be closer to 15-20 things we would like to work on.
Over time, we have come to understand that most businesses simply do not have the time and resources to go in and fix up anywhere from 40 to 100 issues across their site. We also understand that whilst it’s our job to highlight all the areas that could potentially improve a website’s organic presence, some of those changes are going to have a much bigger impact than others.
So, how do we make sure that the work that we are proposing and the changes that we are recommending help to drive success? Prioritisation.
Understanding your client’s goals
One of the first things we do when we start to work with a new client is to ask them for their marketing or business strategy (depending on the size of the business). For us this is an important step. It’s crucial for us to understand the direction in which the business is taking so we can align our recommendations with those business goals.
Whilst auditing is part of a new client set up, it’s also a big part of our on-going work with clients and being able to align our recommendations to the business objectives is crucial if we want to deliver ROI.
Once we have done a comprehensive set up, we put in place an SEO Strategy with goals aligned to those overall business objectives. This ensures that we are all working towards the same goal and helps us to prioritise the changes we need to make, ensuring that those changes have the biggest impact on the overall business objectives.
Prioritising by impact
This is usually the first place we start with our recommendations. From our list of 15-20 potential actions from an audit, we will break this down into a three or sometimes five point priority order. With only so much time in a day/month, it’s important that we work on those actions which are going to drive the biggest impact on SEO and overall business objectives.
The one thing we find is that no priority list is ever the same. What’s a number one priority for one client may find its way down at number five for another. There is no one-size fits all approach. You can’t just say for example ‘title tags are really important so you must tackle these first’. Sure, for a client that has no title tags at all, then these may be a priority one task as adding these could have a huge impact. For another client, they may have some level of optimisation and whilst we may want to revise these down the line, there may be other tasks that come way ahead of title tags in their priority list.
Our recommendations that we make to clients always include every possible change that we feel could make a difference to them, no matter how small. Prioritising these, however, is where we really add value and help our clients to meet their business objectives.
Prioritising by resource
Whether we are prioritising by impact or by resource, they often come down to the same thing. Do you have the staffing in place to execute the recommendations we are making? If the answer is no, then we are likely to change the way we prioritise the changes that need to be made.
The first thing we always do is prioritise by impact. That just makes sense. Then, we will sit down with the client and talk through the recommendations and start to work out whether they have the staffing in place (usually Dev team capability/capacity) and whether they have the budgeted hours (our time) to action the items we are recommending.
By a) prioritising by impact and b) talking through these options with the client, we get to a point where the actions we are carrying out are the ones that are going to make the biggest difference to the business and the ones that are going to be completed in a timely manner as the resource is available.
Without this process, all you usually end up with is a lot of recommendations and very few completed actions which ends up contributing nothing to the bottom line.
Changing priorities on the fly
There are times in a year when you will need to review your recommendations and the way these have been prioritised. More budget may become available, the client may take on more staff or, more often than not, Google will make some changes to the way their algorithm works that forces you to revise your tactics and place your priorities elsewhere.
One thing to be careful of is not knee-jerk reacting to Google algorithm updates before you have a full understanding of the impact on your client’s site. We’ve seen it so many times before. Google announces that they want sites to jump on board with AMP so you spend hour researching what this means, put forward recommendations, devote hours our development time only for the impact to be negligible at best.
The same goes for the introduction of 300 character meta-descriptions. Hands up if you jumped on that bandwagon straight away?
Our hand would go straight up in the air but it was only a few short months until we were quickly backtracking, praying that we had done a Screaming Frog crawl and retained all the previous meta descriptions when that particular update was rolled back.
There are some changes that you need to be on top of – moving to mobile friendly before your site switched to mobile-first indexing, moving your site to https, ideally having a responsive site – all of these are valid changes and will, in the long run, help with your SEO. It is important, however, to assess each of these changes and prioritise them against the other work you are doing for a client, as well as assessing the resource available to make those changes.
It’s important to keep your strategy and your priorities fluid throughout the year. At the start of any project, prioritise the tasks you need to carry out by impact, measured against the overall business goals and then by resource. Ensure you have a robust review process in place and that you are measuring the impact of the work you are carrying out. This will all help to inform future planning and strategies and ensure you are maximising the potential ROI on the work you are carrying out for clients.