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An effective SEO campaign needs a clear strategy that addresses the main issues that exist with a website. This should be straightforward but is often overlooked or not properly analysed before a campaign is begun.
One area that should be prioritised – but is often overlooked – involves analysing what the search competition is doing to rank; after all, any site would rank first without any competition! Having a well-researched view of competitors’ sites allows you to plan how to rank above their websites on the first page.
To do this, you’ll need to look at all aspects of SEO and build a profile of what the competition does well and where it could improve. This could become more difficult as Google relies on entities instead of backlinks. However, it’s still possible and remains vitally important.
Once the data – that demonstrates what is required to succeed – has been collected, it’s important to identify the major problems that exist with your site. If a competitor is ranking effectively even though both their site and yours have duplicate content issues, then this is unlikely to be the place to start when it comes to prioritising a campaign. Without this information, a huge amount of time could be spent resolving internal or external duplicate content issues that may not provide any significant benefit to the site visibility.
One of the major areas for SEO is to look at the site’s content, including any blog or news sections. Content should become a priority area if competitors are producing quality information that’s shared by others or including a large amount of relevant text on important pages that rank well.
If your site is unable to match or improve on what your competitor is offering, this will be a major setback for a campaign that aims to rank above them. Producing content frequently and keeping it fresh and up to date will have a significant influence on the search results.
Any information on product and service pages should also be a priority when it comes to building a successful SEO campaign. If other results for your primary terms have content that is up to date, this will be a key issue to resolve.
The threat from a poor and unnatural backlink profile is real: in the past, this has almost certainly caused some huge multinational brands to lose a fortune on their share price because their search visibility had taken a tumble. Google uses algorithms and humans as well as the competition for each SERP vertical to determine whether the link profile will damage the site visibility.
This is another reason why understanding competitors and your own site from the start is important: it allows you to identify whether backlinks are really holding the site back or whether they are similar to the rest of the search results.
Does the site have a strong existing search presence or does Google barely recognise that it exists? This is often a priority for a new company: search presence should be established by getting quality websites linking to the site. This is usually achieved by creating content but also by engaging with local/national events, working with existing communities and ensuring that citations are in place from leading industry sources. If the site does have a presence, it’s important to establish whether it’s strong enough to compete.
Some business owners can’t understand that their organisation is an industry leader and yet doesn’t appear on the first page of relevant searches. Only by examining the site’s position and comparing this with the competition can you establish the need for good quality backlinks and citations as a leading priority.
Most of the time, a web page will have some relevance to a keyword it’s trying to rank for. However, when mathematical calculations and rules determine the ranking of a web page, this may not be enough, especially in competitive search verticals. A detailed review of key pages is required, which involves looking very closely at the content on page and analysing where and when the page is referencing important terms and how the page is internally and externally linked. The days of external exact match anchor text may be fading but relevant linking sites and strong internal navigation are still hugely important.
Remember to analyse the importance of page relevance by comparing your site with others, and make sure you understand how those sites are seen to be more relevant by search engines. This review should also help give you ideas regarding how to improve your own site.
Sometimes huge gains can be made by resolving technical issues that prevent or restrict search engines from crawling important parts of a site. This happens all the time with both new and old websites and usually involves issues related to mainstream Content Management Systems. By controlling the pages that a search engine indexes and by correcting site structure, navigation and layout, a website can really improve on its existing search visibility.
Duplicate content is usually a prime candidate for e-commerce stores selling branded goods, as the product descriptions are often the same across the web. That said, this issue may be less important for sites specialising in unique goods or services that have less serious duplication or where only some pages are affected. It’s always good to ensure your site is as unique as possible but if there are other issues, it’s crucial to understand which would provide more value. Carry out an initial review and check what’s common amongst other sites in the same search vertical to help determine where to focus your resources.
The six areas listed above should give a clear guide into the priorities of any SEO campaign. A solid platform of initial research encompassing competitors and a detailed analysis of your site will help form a strategy for a successful campaign and, potentially, a greater return on investment.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.