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Generally speaking, SEO isn’t the first digital marketing channel you’d look at for “quick-win” opportunities. SEOs can’t flip campaigns on and off with ease. We can’t make changes to ad copy on the fly. We can’t measure the impact of a change within hours (or even days) of the change going live. 

But in the age of COVID-19, when many brands are curtailing paid media spend, SEOs need to find ways to fill the gaps, and they need to find ways to do it as quickly as possible.

Of course, quick wins aren’t always available, and they aren’t always easily identified. If you can identify one, and if you can execute on it properly, then you’ll demonstrate immense value to your client in an increasingly trying and uncertain time.

I want to walk through an experience I had in the past year where I was able to identify and drive a quick win for one of my clients. Though this occurred before the current pandemic, I feel the factors and cooperation that lead to the quick win provide a useful, practical example for SEOs in our current times.

What Factors Contribute to an SEO Quick Win?

For a true quick win to occur in SEO, all parties need to be active and engaged in driving the change/fix toward implementation. 

In the absolute best-case scenario, a few factors will align to deliver a true SEO quick win:

  1. An issue is identified that both you and the client deem “high priority;”
  2. The issue is relatively simple to fix;
  3. The client and their dev team have an excellent line of communication;
  4. The client’s dev team is highly competent and works quickly; 
  5. The client’s site is crawled on a very regular basis, which means Google will pick up on any changes fairly quickly.

The Client and the Issue

Our client, in this instance, was a leading content publisher in the astrology/horoscope space. During a regularly occurring audit of their high-value pages, we noticed an issue impacting one of their primary content sections. 

Beginning in early June 2019, pages within this section saw significant drops in clicks and impressions across the board. One page in particular — we’ll call it the “issue page” — was hit heavier than others:

Notice the dropoff from May to June. Ouch!

As you can see, the issue page lost 15K+ clicks and 135K+ impressions MoM. We first learned of the issue page during a regularly occurring audit near the end of July 2019.

Our Research and the Identification of an Opportunity

We had a few hypotheses about what the issue on this page could be:

  • Some sort of penalization from Google;
  • A technical issue impacting Google’s ability to crawl, index, and/or otherwise understand the content of the page;
  • A major change in Google’s understanding of the page and/or a change in how Google was ranking pages within the impacted content area.

As we dug in and researched the page, a couple of things became clear. 

First, a Google penalization was unlikely; the page’s content hadn’t changed in over a year, and there was nothing present on the page that would necessarily warrant a penalization in 2019. Second, since the page hadn’t changed in well over a year, that meant there were no new technical issues we could highlight that would lead to the decline. The issue page was linked to internally, linked to in the sitemap, and had not been impacted by a robots.txt change nor by the accidental inclusion of a “noindex” tag. 

This meant that the issue likely stemmed from Google’s understanding of the page. That being the case, we would probably need to make a change to the keyword strategy and/or content of the page. We conducted a competitor analysis as well as more in-depth keyword research to highlight potential pivots we could make in keyword strategy. 

At the time, the page was targeting Keyword A (sorry, can’t spell out our exact strategy). Keyword A averages 4,400 organic searches per month. Through our research, we learned that Keyword B, which averages 201,000 organic searches per month, was highly relevant to the content on our client’s issue page. In fact, the issue page was already ranking low on Page 1 for Keyword B

Execution: An SEO Quick Win in the Wild

The opportunity and execution process was clear: target Keyword B in metadata and body copy, implement the change, and measure the impact. We knew that given our client’s significant domain authority, they could easily move into the top 3 positions for Keyword B if they simply optimized a bit better for that keyword.

But remember: this is SEO. That process, though simple, could take weeks to implement and have an impact. Luckily for us, this client was absolutely on the ball, which helped us achieve a true SEO quick win. Let’s review the factors that aligned to make this happen:

  • An issue is identified that both you and the client deem “high priority.”
    • While the issue page comprised but a small percentage of overall site traffic, the client nevertheless desired to fix the issue as soon as possible. We also had no other outstanding issues that needed to be prioritized ahead of this fix.
  • The issue is relatively simple to fix.
    • The only changes we suggested were to pivot away from targeting Keyword A in the title tag, meta description, H1 tag, and a few key spots in the body copy. We drafted new content that targeted Keyword B instead. Most developers will need maybe 5 minutes to upload these changes.
  • The client and their dev team have an excellent line of communication.
    • We brought this issue to the client’s attention on our weekly call. Within a few hours following the call, the client informed us that a summary of the issue and the fix had been provided to the dev team.
  • The client’s dev team is highly competent, and they work quickly.
    • In our 2+ years working with the client, we had always found this to be the case. In this case, they had the fix ready to go live within 72 hours of hearing about the issue.
  • The client’s site is crawled on a very regular basis, which means Google will pick up on any changes fairly quickly.
    • As mentioned, our client was a significant player within the horoscope/astrology space. Google was crawling their top pages — including the issue page — multiple times per week.

So What Were the Results?

As mentioned, we first identified the issue in late July 2019. Our client took the fix live on August 6, 2019 (about a week after we first alerted them to it).

Within a couple of days, the issue page moved into position #2 for Keyword B (where it ranks as of March 2020). We also began seeing significant improvement to the page’s traffic as early as August 8, 2019.  

By the end of August 2019, clicks had increased 27.7% MoM (a total increase of 15.7K clicks). Likewise, impressions increased by 15.3% MoM (a total increase of 102.7K impressions).

If we compare four months before the implementation month (April – July 2019) to four months after the implementation month (September 2019 – December 2019):

  • Clicks improved by 37.7% (an increase of 96.7K clicks total);
  • Impressions improved by 33.9% (an increase of 995.9K impressions total).

Main Takeaways

In the pandemic age, identifying and capitalizing on quick win opportunities can be vital — vital for your client and the health of their business, and vital for your relationship with the client and the perceived value you can provide.

An SEO quick win requires an ideal set of conditions. As an SEO, you must do your due diligence to identify an issue, adequately explain it, and suggest a fix. At the same time, however, your client must be an active collaborator and a champion of your recommendations. Organic success is always a two-way street.