New year, new SEO goals — here’s how to ensure your strategy is primed to hit the ground running in 2020
Here, you’ll find:
- The biggest factors affecting your SEO
- Tips for setting measurable SEO goals
- How to assess your current SEO standing
- Ways to stay on top of the latest SEO trends
With a new year comes a fresh start. The day-to-day tasks are what keep a company humming along, but every now and then, it’s important to zoom out and look at your processes from a bird’s (or, you know, a hawk’s) eye view.
Now is the perfect time to focus on your company’s current search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Don’t have one? Then now is a great time to start!
SEO includes both on-page (elements on your own website) and off-page (which comprises things like backlinks and social media) optimization. While you have more control over your on-page SEO, there are things you can do for both categories to ensure your site is getting as much exposure as possible.
Ready to dive in? Here are 8 action items you can start now to set your business up for SEO success in 2020.
1. Give your site a “wellness check”
There are multiple factors that go into making sure your site is optimized for the search engine results page (SERP). That’s why it’s a good idea to give your website a “wellness check” once a year — at least.
During this SEO wellness check, you’ll want to check for things like:
- Page titles (ideally 70 characters or less)
- A site map for easy navigation
- Relevant meta descriptions (ideally 300 characters or less)
- Headings and subheadings on blogs and other pages
- Dead-end pages (broken links that route to empty 404 pages)
Along with SEO, it’s also a good idea to check on other technical elements of your site. Things like page load speeds, your domain’s security (especially if people log in or are asked to submit their info on places like landing pages), and compressed media files all go into managing a top-notch site.
2. Conduct a content audit
There’s no single “right” way to conduct a content audit. The aim of this practice is to analyze your content. With an audit, you can identify old posts, high-performing pieces, duplicate content, and everything in between.
Creating a spreadsheet is the easiest way to conduct an organized content audit. This spreadsheet should have categories for:
- Content title
- Content type
- Date published
- Meta description
- Word count
You can uncover lots of insightful SEO data through this type of audit. It’ll show you which content could use a refresh, which pieces need to be optimized, any duplicate content that could hurt your SERP ranking, and which pieces aren’t getting you any traffic whatsoever. This will also help you identify top traffic drivers that you’ll want to work to expand upon or replicate.
If you have a high volume of content (and not a lot of time to gather this info manually), you can use Google Analytics or SEMRush to help you gather the URLs and other info you need to perform the audit.
3. Identify topic gaps you could fill
Another helpful use for your audit is to identify topic gaps you can fill via new content. Which topics related to your business have you not covered? Which related topics are your competitors outranking you for?
Often, these chosen topics (start out with a list of 10) relate to the products or services your business offers. Once you’ve narrowed them down, you can use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to determine the popularity and competition for these keywords.
Determine the prioritization of your topics and organize them in something like a Google Sheet. That way, you can more easily brainstorm specific blog ideas that fall under the more general (and more competitive) umbrella of your chosen keywords.
4. Create (or update) your content strategy
The best content strategy is one that’s not set in stone. The more you create content, the more data you can gather, the more topics you can cover, and the more opportunity you have to optimize your site for search engines.
Your content strategy serves as a high-level look at your content goals and how you plan to achieve them.
Whether you create a doc, a slideshow, or go old-school with pen and paper, your content strategy should include:
- Key performance indicators
- Target personas
- Creation process
Your strategy could also map out how often you plan to publish content. Some content strategies even include content creation checklists to ensure each published piece is optimized before it goes live. Optimized content has elements such as:
- Title tags
- Internal and external links
- Meta descriptions
- Sentences and paragraphs that are easy to digest
- Images with alt text
Pro tip: Want to rise in the SERP ranks? Of course you do! Optimizing your content for voice search and featured snippets can help. Try to add content ideas to your calendar that answer common questions your prospects would type into a search engine or ask a voice search device. Then answer those questions via content in a straightforward, concise way.
5. Have a link-building plan
When it comes to off-page SEO, link-building is one of the most effective methods out there. It also — like SEO itself — takes time to cultivate properly.
The more backlinks (links from other sites to yours, also called inbound links) you have from relevant, credible sites and sources, the higher your website is likely to rank. That’s because backlinks are like endorsements — they help illustrate to Google that your site is legitimate and valuable.
Start out by linking your own content to credible sites and sources when relevant. By giving others backlinks, you can build a relationship with other sites that can help encourage them to backlink to you as well.
There’s no secret to getting good quality backlinks, but some ways you can encourage backlinks to your site include:
- Publishing unique stats, research, or findings
- Guest blogging on other sites
- Leveraging industry influencers
- Reaching out to sites with directories (like a site’s resources page)
If you have the means, you can also consider partnering with a public relations (PR) agency. These pros often have tons of nurtured media relationships, which means they can help get the word out about a new infographic, cool survey results, or an experienced team member who’s available for interviews.
For future content, you can look into potentially partnering with another (non-competitor) company to expand your reach. This could be a joint webinar or survey, or something like a content swap.
6. Sign up for an SEO newsletter
The SEO world is ever-evolving, and keeping up with the latest updates and changes can seem like its own full-time job. That’s where SEO newsletters come in. Instead of taking the time to research, you can work smarter (not harder) and let the latest news come straight to your inbox instead.
There are plenty of SEO newsletters to choose from, and you may even be able to find one that applies specifically to your industry. Moz Top 10 is a popular newsletter that sends out the 10 most valuable pieces of SEO content every two weeks. The newsletters from Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal are worth subscribing to as well. (P.S. Hawk has one, too!)
7. Write down your SEO goals for the year
With January just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to determine your SEO goals for the next year. If the idea seems overwhelming, don’t fret! Here’s how you can break it down.
Start off with where you currently are with your SEO. How are your rankings? What’s your organic traffic like? What about referral traffic, links, and search volume?
Once you know where you are, determine where you want to be and how you’ll get there. Which pieces of content do you want to get from page 3 to page 1, and how will you work to make it happen? How many leads or sales do you want to attract in a certain time period? How much do you want traffic to increase?
Once you’ve determined your goals, you can create tangible steps and tactics that will light your path to success.
8. Track your progress
Having goals is only half the battle — you also need to be tracking your progress. This keeps you on the right path and can shine a light on how and when you should be iterating your processes.
Keep an eye on your monthly ranking status and any new backlinks you accrue. This also allows you to quickly see when to disavow links that might be spam, which can hurt your SEO status. Disavowing a link basically tells Google to ignore the link in connection to your site.
You can even monitor website speed as you add new content. Being able to evaluate your progress and efforts is key to your SEO success.
Whether you’re finetuning your current strategy or starting from scratch, the new year is a perfect time to assess your SEO goals, evaluate your current practices, and implement a stellar SEO plan.
Here at HawkSEM, we’ve successfully helped clients improve their keyword research and development, site optimization, content creation, and more. Want to know more? Let’s chat.