How do you know if the SEO and con­tent changes you’re mak­ing will ben­e­fit your site? Con­trib­u­tor Casie Gillette looks at ways to pri­or­i­tize resources so they impact your bot­tom line and sup­port your busi­ness objec­tives.

What do we need to do to opti­mize our site?”

It’s a ques­tion every search engine opti­miza­tion spe­cial­ist (SEO) faces but one that doesn’t have a sim­ple answer. After all, has there ever been a site that sim­ply needs one thing?

That’s the prob­lem with SEO. It’s com­prised of so many things that when faced with the ques­tion of what we should do, we often find our­selves pro­vid­ing too many rec­om­men­da­tions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most teams aren’t armed with the resources or knowl­edge to han­dle them, and instead of get­ting every­thing done, we end up with very lit­tle, if any­thing, com­plete.

How do we guar­an­tee that our teams are mak­ing the changes we need to help dri­ve suc­cess?

Over the course of my career, this has been a chal­lenge I’ve faced over and over again, and thank­ful­ly, I’ve learned a few ways to han­dle it. Let’s take a look.

Prioritize by impact

There’s only so much time in the day, which means not every­thing can get done. So, if we can only get one or two things onto the list, we have to ensure we are choos­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions that are going to have the biggest impact on the site as a whole.

Let’s look at a tech­ni­cal SEO audit, for exam­ple. In a tech­ni­cal audit, we might rec­om­mend canon­i­cal­iza­tion, redi­rect updates, head­ing tags, image com­pres­sion and 15 oth­er things. A dev team already bogged down by their reg­u­lar day-to-day isn’t going to be able to fit all of this in.

To make cer­tain we get some­thing done, we have to look at what is real­ly hold­ing back the site. Title tags may not seem like the high­est pri­or­i­ty in the world, but if the site doesn’t have them, that change alone could result in some sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments.

When mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, help teams under­stand where they should start and what can wait. Not every­thing is going to be a pri­or­i­ty.

Prioritize by resources

The same thing applies to resources.

Last year, we rec­om­mend­ed that Client A tran­si­tion their site from HTTP to HTTPS. They were onboard, we were excit­ed, and then we real­ized they didn’t have any­one to man­age the process.

Mov­ing a site to HTTPS isn’t a small feat. It can be dif­fi­cult, can result in errors, and, as I’ve seen sev­er­al times now, it can result in sig­nif­i­cant organ­ic traf­fic loss (Thanks, Google). We couldn’t take the risk. We held onto that rec­om­men­da­tion for almost a year until they had the right peo­ple in place to ensure a smooth tran­si­tion. Every­thing was switched over cor­rect­ly, and the site is see­ing a nice bump in traf­fic.

Let’s look at anoth­er exam­ple. Client B want­ed our help writ­ing con­tent but didn’t have any­one to actu­al­ly edit, approve or man­age the process, result­ing in a back­log of unpub­lished blog posts. Do you know who unpub­lished blog posts help? No one.

Instead, we decid­ed to switch to blog refresh­es. We iden­ti­fied a list of old­er blog posts that were ripe for an update and start­ing updat­ing the con­tent. We didn’t need exten­sive review, and we had the abil­i­ty to imple­ment the changes. As a result, blog traf­fic start­ed pick­ing up, and we were able to show improve­ments with­out new con­tent.

At the end of the day, SEOs are often reliant on oth­er depart­ments to be suc­cess­ful. We have to be aware of avail­able resources and adjust when nec­es­sary.

Align recommendations with business goals

It seems like an obvi­ous thing to align with busi­ness goals. Make sure you are dri­ving results that impact the over­all orga­ni­za­tion. Are you actu­al­ly doing that? Or are your rec­om­men­da­tions sim­ply geared toward improv­ing organ­ic traf­fic and rev­enue?

I’ll be hon­est. I have been 100 per­cent guilty of pro­vid­ing rec­om­men­da­tions that help the SEO pro­gram but don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly align with orga­ni­za­tion­al goals. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

Take Client B men­tioned above. At the onset of the pro­gram, we iden­ti­fied our core set of key­words and the types of con­tent we would need to dri­ve vis­i­bil­i­ty. Every­one was in agree­ment until we actu­al­ly built the con­tent.

Yes, they under­stood they need­ed con­tent, but they felt it real­ly didn’t fit with their exist­ing cam­paigns and cur­rent strat­e­gy.

So there the three blog posts sat — more unpub­lished con­tent. Until a few months lat­er.

We start­ed ask­ing more ques­tions, get­ting inte­grat­ed into their demand-gen cal­en­dar, and it turned out that those three unpub­lished blog posts fit per­fect­ly into an upcom­ing cam­paign.

It was an easy thing to over­look. The con­tent made sense for the SEO pro­gram, but it wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a fit for them at the moment.

Make sure you under­stand not only the objec­tives of the team respon­si­ble for SEO but also the objec­tives of the sup­port­ing teams and the busi­ness as a whole.

Don’t jump at the latest thing

Last month, I gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on com­mon SEO mis­takes peo­ple make. One of those things is over­re­act­ing to Google and its many updates and changes.

Look, I get it. When Google tells us to make our sites secure or it’ll start warn­ing users, we should lis­ten. But when Google tells us to make our site secure and then can’t fig­ure out how to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between the secured and non-secured ver­sions, it’s a bit frus­trat­ing.

Remem­ber author­ship? Google Plus? How about 300-char­ac­ter meta descrip­tions? That was a fun minute.

We have to ensure that what we rec­om­mend makes sense for our busi­ness. We can’t pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions sim­ply because Google said so.

Now, I’m not say­ing your site shouldn’t be secure or shouldn’t be fast and mobile-friend­ly. But what I am say­ing is that maybe your mobile traf­fic is fair­ly insignif­i­cant, so you don’t need to spend 90 per­cent of your time focused on a mobile strat­e­gy.

Here’s anoth­er exam­ple.

When accel­er­at­ed mobile pages (AMP) was launched, it seemed like an easy enough thing to do. Sure, it was built for pub­lish­ers, but Yoast made it sim­ple, and as a result, it became a part of our stan­dard tech­ni­cal recs. But what about those not on Word­Press? What about those with a cus­tom con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem (CMS) who would need to hire a devel­op­er to build out AMP func­tion­al­i­ty? Was it worth it?

No, it wasn’t. In this case, the web­mas­ter didn’t pub­lish a ton of new con­tent, and their over­all mobile traf­fic num­bers were fair­ly small. Even more telling, mobile search results for their core terms didn’t con­tain AMP results.

Google said, “Jump,” but in this case, there was no rea­son for us to jump.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, suc­cess is a mov­ing tar­get, and we live in a world of “What have you done for me late­ly?” A pro­gram can change in a year, or even in six months. As SEOs, we need to con­tin­ue mea­sur­ing, adjust­ing and keep­ing our strat­e­gy aligned with the chang­ing land­scape.

Remem­ber, while you may want to fix every­thing, that isn’t always an option. Help your team be suc­cess­ful by pri­or­i­tiz­ing their tasks, help­ing them under­stand what is going to have an impact and pro­vid­ing rec­om­men­da­tions that are built with busi­ness objec­tives in mind.