How to Build on the Foundation of SEO
Published: August 26, 2014
Author: Kate Shaughnessy
As an agency performing SEO services for clients, we execute a significant number of SEO sales audits looking at SEO best-practice implementation. What we find is that most businesses need a fair amount of foundational website cleanup: anything from ensuring all of their content is visible to spiders, to planning a well-defined keyword map, to laying out a plan to both build content and earn inbound links to improve visibility over time.
Assuming the client is enthusiastic and engaged enough to implement recommendations quickly, we’re able to put the basics in place and move past this foundational stage of the engagement. The question from there is: what’s next?
Successful long-term SEO must be agile, interdisciplinary, and creative.
As every business (and its site, and its users) is unique, so too must every long-term SEO engagement mirror that uniqueness. This is where I truly believe our SEO team stands out. We’re not satisfied with being mere SEO health checkers; we’re committed to being tech-savvy digital consultants, constantly incorporating peripheral skillsets into our core SEO competencies.
Here are some of the Phase 2 ways we capitalize on the organic traffic foundation we’ve already built (because traffic’s only as good as what you do with it).
Analytics Audit, Recommendations, Implementation
Decisions are only as good as the data that informs them. SEO managers double as analytics experts able to get beyond the out-of-the-box analytics package setup to get to the good stuff. At a basic level, your analytics package (Google Analytics, CoreMetrics, etc.) should be set up to ensure that performance is properly benchmarked and correctly tracked over time.
For example: Are you filtering out erroneous or irrelevant data? Are you leveraging custom segments to parse data? Have you been reporting on first-level vanity metrics (such as Pageviews or Bounce Rate) when there are more useful metrics to investigate (like conversion rate over time or page path navigation)? All of these tactics can take your data from being an afterthought to an active participant in your digital marketing strategy.
Heat Mapping and Surveys
Sometimes visuals communicate what numbers cannot. If we need insight from a wide number of users, we execute on-site projects that collect data via a survey or a heat-mapping exercise. This way, we can see how users interact with the site (e.g. videos, photos, and products) and also get a significant number of answers straight from the horse’s mouth. The mix of qualitative and quantitative data leads to powerful change that makes the most of your organic traffic (e.g. how your client’s site compares to their competitors or how content should be arranged on the page).
User Experience Research
For more in-depth insight into user behavior, we turn to 1:1 research in the form of UX testing. Engaging in real time with real users from a target demographic gives us qualitative feedback that surveys can miss, and fleshes out the quantitative feedback from analytics.
This process can be quite involved: We work with our clients on a script, find test candidates that meet the demographics of the client, and then engage those candidates as they walk through a series of actions on the existing website and, often, on a new iteration of the site. After we videotape this sessions, consolidate the data, and report back on commonalities that we see amongst users, we’re able to offer the specific, actionable feedback that can only be gathered from engaging directly with people as they navigate your site.
We’ve seen takeaways from this type of study impacting more than the conversion rate of organic traffic; they can often lead to significant changes with the way clients market their businesses both on- and offline.
An underappreciated tactic of SEO is revisiting content pages on your site that perform well and improving them. Oftentimes there are specific content pages that exceed expectations; rather than let these pages sit idle, we can make an effort to improve their content. This may involve further editing of the body content, refining its keyword target(s), and/or making it more visible on the site through internal links. As an ancillary benefit, updating these high-performing pages with more depth and new data can allow them to stay visible for a much longer period, as all content pages have a freshness variable that decays over time.
Analytics Deep Dive
Data quirks have triggered some of my best SEO recommendations – and these simply don’t make themselves known without a deep dive into your site’s data. A full-fledged investigation into on-site performance brings opportunities to the surface in a way that day-to-day analytics can’t. This can include identifying on-site pages that aid in conversion even if they don’t bring in traffic, or looking at multi-session conversion patterns. Creating time to explore all the data available about your users will not only improve SEO; it will provide valuable insights about all your digital marketing channels.
Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of Phase 2 SEO strategies we use to ensure your organic traffic continues to provide value. At the end of the day, SEO does its best work when the foundation is strong and stable, and all parties involved have a deep enough understanding of your site to build on this strong SEO foundation. We’re doing our best work when we’re identifying opportunities and implementing solutions that are as unique as your business.