Tag Archives: search engine optimization

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 4 , 2021

Don’t fall for these common misunderstandings surrounding SEO.

Here you’ll find:

  • The most common SEO myths
  • The truth behind these myths
  • How to avoid falling for these misconceptions
  • Expert tips for boosting your SEO

A digital marketing strategy without search engine optimization (SEO) is like trying to kayak with a paddle that only has one fin.

Sure, you may be moving — but you’re probably not going to get where you’re going in a timely, efficient manner.

Experienced marketers know it takes both paid search and strong SEO for your digital marketing plan to function at full capacity. And while there’s plenty of information to be learned about both, there are also plenty of myths, particularly when it comes to SEO. 

Let’s debunk a few of them to get a good idea of what SEO is — and what it isn’t.  

HawkSEM: seo myths blog

The moment you stop implementing SEO tactics, everything you’ve achieved so far starts evaporating. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #1: SEO guarantees top search engine rankings

Truth: While SEO tactics can help you get to the top of organic search engine page results, guarantees simply don’t exist. SEO is only one part of an overall search engine marketing strategy. Without other components like pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, it can be difficult to beat out the competition for the top spots — and even harder to stay there.

On top of that, we know that SEO is an ongoing process. This means it often takes months to show any significant results. Even then, you may not get to the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). However, with the right approach and a well-thought-out strategy, it is certainly possible to achieve high rankings and increase traffic as a result.

Myth #2: Once you achieve desired results, SEO is complete

Truth: The SEO process is a project with no end in sight. What’s more, the moment you stop implementing SEO tactics, everything you’ve achieved so far starts evaporating.

Think of your SEO practice like a muscle you’re exercising. As long as you keep working at it consistently, it stays strong. But once you stop, the muscle mass begins losing strength — often faster than it was gained.

New SEO trends and search engine algorithm updates crop up all the time. Without following them and adjusting your efforts accordingly, it’s nearly impossible to maintain high rankings.

Myth #3: SEO is a “cheating” tactic

Truth: One of the most pervasive SEO myths is that search engine optimization is just a way to cheat Google and get your website on the first page of Google results.

While the practice of SEO is by no means unethical, there are certain “quick-win” tactics people will use to try to leapfrog into higher results. These methods are referred to as black hat SEO, and their efficiency is quickly approaching zero.

Search algorithms are becoming increasingly better at identifying black-hat techniques like keyword stuffing, low-quality content, shady link-building practices, and much more. What’s worse, employing these tricks may get your site penalized or have your pages disappear from results altogether. Basically, it’s not worth the risk. 

Remember, search engine optimization isn’t just about rising through the ranks. It’s more important to make your website a highly valuable resource for your audience through ethical, white hat tactics. These include:

  • Targeting a human audience with content, not search bots
  • Publishing images with alt tags
  • Creating easy navigation through site architecture
  • Following all other suggested search engine guidelines

Myth #4: SEO is cheap

Truth: Scoring big returns with little investment of budget or time is no easy feat in most niches. SEO is no exception. 

Effective search engine optimization requires dedicated, continuous investment. Any solutions offering a high-impact return at a low price point (whether that means dollars or effort) are likely short-lived, ineffective, and often against guidelines.

As mentioned above, it often takes time to see the true effects of your SEO efforts. But by investing the time and money to ensure your site is optimized, your content is high-quality, and your website can be viewed as trustworthy, you’ll be poised to see results that will be worth it.

HawkSEM: seo myths article

Remember the muscle comparison: It’s impossible to get a huge bicep after two workouts — time and consistency are key. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #5: It takes forever to see SEO results

Truth: The time it takes for SEO to start working depends on how you begin. If you already have a well-designed website, a top-notch content plan, and a smart backlink strategy, the effects may become visible in as little as a few weeks.

If you’re starting from scratch, that’s fine! Just manage expectations and understand results won’t be immediate. Remember the muscle comparison: It’s impossible to get a huge bicep after two workouts. Time and consistency are key.

Pro tip: Leveraging low-competition keywords and optimizing your site’s metadata are just a few tactics that can help you see relatively swift SEO results.

Myth #6: SEO is all about keyword search  

Truth: Some people believe SEO boils down to doing a high-quality keyword search and sticking these keywords into the content on their websites.

While keywords and content are important pillars of SEO, they’re hardly the only components of the strategy. Search engine optimization also factors in things like website speed and design, backlinks, mobile-first indexing, social media, security, and much more.

Myth #7: Link schemes boost your ranking

Truth: Engaging in link schemes is another black hat SEO technique. It’s also a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The search engine defines this practice as excessive cross-linking or “requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement without allowing a third-party content owner the choice of qualifying the outbound link, should they wish.”

Sure, this tactic may boost your rankings for a while. But eventually, the search engine will catch on and slap your website with a penalty. Recovering from such a punishment may take months and can negatively impact other parts of your marketing strategy.

It’s worth noting that several legal ways to “buy” links exist. For example, paying a website for posting your content (guest post) with a link inside is perfectly within regulations. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a respectable website that will post poor content, so focus on keeping the quality high, whether the content is published on your site or elsewhere.

Need help creating a myth-free SEO strategy? Let’s chat.

Myth #8: The more backlinks you have, the better

Truth: With backlinks, ignore SEO myths that say that quantity matters more than quality. Google focuses on the authority of the page that links to your website. Links from well-respected websites are much more powerful than links from no-name or spammy sources. The backlink should, of course, also be relevant to the content you’re posting.

SEO experts can devise strategies for garnering high-quality backlinks. While getting them might take time, one high-quality backlink can be more powerful than its 50 low-quality counterparts. 

Myth #9: High-volume keywords are all you need to achieve high rankings

Truth: Of course, you want to snag rankings for those high-volume keywords… and so does everyone else in your industry or niche. That’s why the competition for them is fierce.

If you focus solely on these keywords, you’re more likely to get frustrated and have difficulty rising through the ranks.

Using high-volume keywords is an essential part of a solid SEO strategy, but it’s hardly the only one. Low competition and long-tail keywords could bring you impressive results as well, so try focusing on those. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

hawksem blog: seo myths

Know how to spot SEO myths and misinformation so you know you’re on the right track. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #10: Long content ranks better

Truth: Long content ranks better if it’s valuable. Google doesn’t draw a hard line when it comes to the length of your content — the algorithm cares more about providing search results that are relevant and valuable to searchers.

Aiming for a higher word count just for the sake of it could lead to adding fluff and making your articles downright boring, which may result in a higher bounce rate. 

Pro tip: Though there’s no magic SEO word count you want to hit, it’s wise to avoid publishing thin content. This is defined as “content that has little or no value to the user,” according to Yoast. Google also considers low-quality affiliate pages and those very little or no content as thin content pages.

The takeaway

The practice of search engine optimization is as crucial as it is complex. To understand how it works, you need to be able to see through the common myths.

If you’re trying to implement SEO tactics on your own, you want to be careful with the information you use as guidelines so you know you’re on the right track.

Many SEO myths stem from the lack of knowledge about the latest updates. Staying on top of the current trends and algorithm news can help put you on the path to achieving the results you seek.

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Feb 12 , 2021

New website, who dis?

Here, you’ll find:

  • Different types of site migrations
  • Tips for planning a site migration
  • Steps to take during the migration process
  • Common migration missteps to avoid

Whether you’re opting for a more secure site, getting a design refresh, or moving to a new CMS, there are plenty of reasons to take on a site migration. But this project is one that shouldn’t be taken on lightly.

Migrating your site is a technical, multi-step process. A misstep can result in broken links, a poor mobile experience, and loss of significant website SEO you’ve worked hard to build.

But before you break into a cold sweat, don’t worry. Jessica Weber, one of our senior SEO & SEM managers, is here to help break down just a few of the big steps to take for a successful site migration.

Different types of site migrations

First things first: It’s important to know that site migration comes in many different forms. For example, a migration from an “http” to “https” URL is completely different from a redesign, which is different from a domain migration. 

The nature of a site migration is often a complicated and technical process. Because of this, it’s crucial to have a detailed plan for how to tackle this project before, during, and after the migration itself.

Other types of site migrations include:

  • Moving to a new domain
  • Changing URLs
  • Updating navigation or architecture
  • Adding mobile functionality  
  • Migrating part of a website
  • Moving to a new host or server
  • Moving to a new CMS or framework
  • Website redesign or template change
HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

When you’re working on a site migration, it’s wise to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. (Image via Unsplash)

Before the site migration

Jessica says the “before” stage is the most important phase of a site migration. That’s why our #1 piece of advice for site migration is to plan ahead

One of the first steps you take should be to create a site mapping document. This includes a list of your URL redirects. It works from the old site to the new site to make sure you’re passing all of your site equity onto the new site so you don’t lose it.

Site equity refers to the fact that your old URLS have been around longer and thus have had more time to drum up page authority and traffic. You don’t want to lose that when you migrate your site. Essentially, you want to make sure your new URLs (if applicable) reroute from your old URLs so no pages are lost or dead-end with a 404 error. 

Pro tip: When you’re working on a site migration, it’s wise to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. Sites like WordPress can walk you through the creation of production, staging and development environments.

During the site migration

As you migrate your site, be sure to implement your comprehensive list of 301 redirects. Moz explains that, when the new site URLs are different from the old site URLs, 301 redirects “tell search engines to index the new URLs as well as forward any ranking signals from the old URLs to the new ones.”

You need to use permanent 301 redirects if your site migration entails:

  • Moving to or from another domain or subdomain
  • Switching from “http” to “https”
  • Parts of the site being restructured in some way

Next, you’ll want to update all of the canonical tags on your new, old, and other sites, if applicable. If your site has a page that can be accessed via multiple URLs, Google will view this as duplicate content — that’s where canonical tags come in. 

According to Google, the search engine’s bots “will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.” So make sure the canonical URL you’re directing to is the one that already has the most site equity.

Pro tip: Google offers a Change of Address Tool for sites migrating from one domain or subdomain to another. However, this isn’t the tool to use for changing from “http” to “https,” redirecting pages on your site, removing “www” from your domain, or moving without making user-visible URL changes.

Additional steps to take during the migration process

Along with the above, don’t forget to complete this site migration checklist:

  • Update all of the internal links on your sites so that they point to the new URLs.
  • Update all of your tracking codes.
  • Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for your new site (if applicable).
  • Update your XML sitemap (if you don’t have a plug-in that will create it automatically) and submit the sitemap to Google and Bing.
  • Reach out to the owners or editors of any high-value backlinks and ask them to update the link.
  • Update outside links you control, such as Google My Business, social profiles, analytics, and anywhere there are citations, NAP (name, address, phone number) listings, or links back to your site, so they point to the new URLs.

Pro tip: Launch your new site during an “off” or slow period of time, if you can. That way, your team can test out all the live links and address any issues quickly before customers and prospects see them.

HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

There are endless reasons why site owners may see SEO changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. (Image via Unsplash)

After the site migration

Finally, the finish line! Once you’ve successfully moved over your site content, tweaked it all in a staging environment, and followed the steps above, it’s time to launch. 

After your new site is up and running, it’s a good idea to continue monitoring 404s and Google Search Console to make sure everything is tracking properly. You also want to monitor your rankings. If you migrated and, after a few weeks, your rankings aren’t where they were (or better), it’s time to conduct an SEO audit and see what might’ve gone awry.

Looking to up your SEO game? Check out our guide: 10 Quick Tips to Improve Your SEO Today.

How to avoid a drop in SEO after a migration

No matter how thorough you are with your site migration, it’s still possible to see a dip in your SEO performance. Jessica explains that there are endless reasons why site owners may see changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. 

A big part of this is because the Google algorithm is wary of big site changes, so you’ll almost always see a dip after migrating while Google reassesses. If you’re migrating to new URLs, you may also lose some equity through redirection. 

To ensure your SEO suffers as little as possible, avoid these common site migration mistakes:

  • Waiting too long to start the site migration process
  • Launching before you’re ready
  • Not comprehensively redirecting the proper way
  • Not updating canonical tags
  • Deciding to launch new sites that are not as optimized as the old sites
  • Not making a copy of the old site
  • Failing to transfer your disavow file that tells Google which of your backlinks should be ignored
  • Not completing and saving a crawl for reference (you can crawl your site with a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb)

Website crawler tools allow you to crawl your websites’ URLs to better analyze and audit your technical and onsite SEO.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional

It’s natural to be overwhelmed by the idea of a site migration. After all, it’s an involved project with a lot of moving parts. While we’ve laid out the main elements of a site migration, much more goes into it along with the above.

If it seems like too much to take on, we suggest consulting an experienced professional who can ensure your migration goes smoothly.

The takeaway

Planning and preparation are the most important phases of a successful site migration. Along with this, it’s key to remember that SEO is part of every page, and it should be one of the first things you consider during a migration. 

Give yourself peace of mind during a site migration by following every step necessary to ensure you don’t lose site equity, and keep a record of everything you do and need to do during the process. (Better yet, consider giving the job to a pro who can work with you to ensure the migration is a success.) Happy launching!

HawkSEM site migration checklist

Want more? Click to download our easy-to-follow site migration checklist.

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 8 , 2020

Make sure your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is primed for success in 2021 and beyond.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Quick wins for optimizing your website
  • The must-have elements of quality content
  • The latest Google developments to leverage
  • SEO best practices & trends to keep an eye on

It’s like the age-old saying goes: An SEO pro’s work is never done. 

…OK, so maybe I made that up, but the sentiment holds true. With the ever-changing algorithm and constant advances in technology, optimizing your website for search engine results is (and should be) an ongoing process.

The good news? Putting these SEO best practices into place now can set you up for success months and years down the road. 

These tactics will ensure you’ve got top-notch SEO and add value to your overall brand while showing prospects and users that your company is one they can trust.

SEO includes both on-page (elements on your own website) and off-page (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 get your site as much exposure as possible.

Let’s dive in.

HawkSEM: Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Think of an SEO audit like a wellness check for your website. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Plan regular SEO audits

Multiple factors go into making sure your site is optimized for the search engine results page (SERP). That’s why it’s a good idea to conduct an SEO audit at least once a year. This process will give you a holistic view of where your SEO currently stands. 

The steps to conducting a thorough SEO audit are:

  • Perform a technical audit using a site-crawler tool
  • See what pages are indexed in search engines
  • Review mobile friendliness
  • Test page speed
  • Analyze on-site user behavior
  • Revisit your personas and audience
  • Conduct keyword research
  • Audit your content strategy
  • Analyze your link profile
  • Review backlink and internal linking strategies

There are other elements of your site that can affect SEO. Things like your domain’s security (especially if people log in or are asked to submit their info on places like landing pages), long-tail keywords, and compressed media files all go into creating top-notch SEO.

A content audit can also help identify topic gaps to fill via new content. Which themes related to your business have you not covered? Which related topics are your competitors outranking you for? 

Often, these chosen topics relate to the products or services your business offers. Narrow them down, then use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to determine the popularity and competition for these keywords.

Pro tip: Want an idea of where you stand before conducting a full SEO audit? You can leverage a website grader tool that’ll instantly tell you how your site’s SEO stacks up.

2. Create (or update) your content strategy

Speaking of content: The best content strategy is one that’s not set in stone. That’s because 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. Plus, it’s one of the most effective SEO best practices you can adopt.

Whether you create a doc, a slideshow, or go old-school with pen and paper, your content strategy should include:

  • Goals
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Target personas
  • Tactics
  • Creation process
  • Projects

Your strategy should also include how often you plan to publish content. It’s also wise to have a content creation checklist to ensure each published piece is optimized and consistent before it goes live. 

Optimized content generally features elements like:

  • Subheadings
  • Title tags
  • Internal and external links
  • Meta descriptions
  • Sentences and paragraphs that are easy to digest
  • Images with alt text

3. Embrace video marketing

There are multiple reasons why video marketing belongs in your 2021 strategy. It’s fast becoming a highly effective content too, while serving as a great way to increase page time and boost engagement. HubSpot reports that 88% of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI.

Once you’ve mapped out a strategy and created your first video, don’t forget to optimize it. You can optimize your videos by following SEO best practices such as:

  • Choosing an engaging thumbnail image
  • Creating a thoughtful title and meta description
  • Optimizing the page itself that the video is hosted on
  • Investing in paid ads for promotion
  • Including captions or subtitles within your video

4. Prioritize mobile-first indexing

The masterminds at Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in the spring of 2018. Before this, Google was crawling and ranking the desktop version of a website.

Then, in the summer of 2020, Google announced it would enable mobile-first indexing for all sites in search by April 2021. 

So, what does this mean for you? Your site has to look sharp on mobile to rank well. That means no wonky formatting, no slow page loads, and no weird margins that make reading or scrolling nearly impossible.

Use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool or do a spot check on your pages by pulling them up on your mobile device to see how they’re responding and rendering. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, it will continue to pull your desktop version, but this leaves you more prone to a sub-par user experience and search engine results page (SERP) ranking.

HawkSEM: Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Data also shows that images with descriptive captions perform even better — like, ahem, this one. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Get your site up to speed

Speed remains a vital part of following SEO best practices. Not only is it a factor in Google’s slated 2021 Core Web Vitals ranking rollout, but “a slow-to-load page can be a huge problem for bounce rate,” according to Search Engine Journal.

Images and video are two features that can affect page speed since these tend to be larger files. More — and larger — files mean more HTTP requests, which means more load time. 

Make sure the files you’re uploading aren’t bigger than necessary (they don’t need to be magazine-quality high-res photos to look good on your site). And consider enabling compression, so your files are compressed (aka smaller) and take less time to load.

Enabling browser caching can also help, as this means the page isn’t loading completely from scratch each time it’s visited.

6. Don’t underestimate good visuals

Visuals don’t just catch the reader’s eye — they help bring your content to life. Our in-house experts recommend using at least two images per blog post, whether that means photographs, well-designed graphics, or something else.

But don’t just slap a couple of photos into your copy and call it a day. The images you choose should make sense for the topic you’re covering, and the look should feel in line with your brand, even if you’re using stock imagery.

By now, you probably know what’s coming next: optimizing!

Once you’ve found some high-quality photos and compressed them to the proper size to keep your page speed and formatting on point, make sure to include proper alt text that corresponds to the image. This is what will show up if someone has images disabled on their device, or potentially if they hover their mouse over the image. Data also shows that images with descriptive captions perform even better.

7. Monitor your reviews

Brand sentiment is part of what the algorithm takes into consideration. Because of this, it’s important to keep a close eye on your reviews across your Google My Business profile, Facebook page, and other various sites. 

Negative reviews should be publicly addressed, if possible, as long as the comment seems authentic and not like spam (you should be able to tell the difference). Do what you can to turn this disgruntled customer’s opinion around — it could be as easy as:

  • Offering a refund
  • Getting them on the phone with a customer service rep to sort out an issue
  • Appealing to their emotions and making them feel heard
  • Apologizing for a miscommunication, misunderstanding or mixup (which could result in the person deleting their negative review entirely)

But don’t just respond to the negative reviews — SEO best practices suggest acknowledging and thanking someone for a positive review makes your happy client feel seen and valued. And, as we know, word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools around.

8. Keep featured snippets in mind

Featured snippets are a SERP feature that often show up when someone asks a question in the search box. The snippet result usually includes what the algorithm deems the most relevant answer.

Featured snippets are usually found in the space between paid search ads and ranked results, sometimes accompanied by an image or video. In 2020, Google made a few tweaks to featured snippets. These included testing multiple contextual links (which they later said was unintentional) and, in some cases, taking users straight to the blurb being referenced in the snippet when they click the link (sometimes with the featured text highlighted).  

While there’s no “one weird trick” to snagging a featured snippet, there are a few ways to prime your content for this spot on the SERP, such as:

  • Dating your content
  • Avoiding first-person language
  • Thoroughly answering a “why”-based query
  • Following the format of existing featured snippets
voice search - seo 2021

More than 4 billion voice search devices were used in 2020, and the figure is slated to double by 2024. (Image via Unsplash)

9. Examine your structured data

Structured data, also called Schema markup, is one way search engine bots crawling your site can understand your website content. This is an important part of healthy technical SEO: the better bots understand your content, the better your chances are of ranking in search results.

Schema is a type of vocabulary with tags you can add to the HTML markup of your web pages and emails. One of the biggest benefits to Schema is that it can enhance the snippets that appear below your page title on the SERP. It allows you to add enriching content like a publish date or rating, rather than simply the meta description.

In August 2020, Google announced that its rich results test tool would now support article structured data. According to Search Engine Land, this can help you better pinpoint structured data issues and potentially drive more traffic to your pages.

Pro tip: There are hundreds of Schema types. Those unfamiliar can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to add structured data to their sites.

10. Own and manage your backlinks

Oh, backlinks — one of those SEO best practices that’s as valuable as it is elusive. While there’s no real shortcut to getting quality backlinks, by putting in the work, it’s still possible to begin seeing SEO-boosting results. The first step is to measure up your site’s current backlinks, then compare the results with those of your competitors. 

Sites that will link to your competitors are likely to link to you as well — if your content is optimized, high-quality, and relevant (it’s also a good idea to link to relevant, high-authority sites). When reaching out about backlink opportunities, it’s key to prioritize personalization, show the value you’re offering, and focus on building a relationship with this business vs. asking for a favor out of the blue.

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)

While backlinks are important, it’s worth noting that — as SEO experts point out — it’s not necessarily a numbers game. Quality will win over quantity, and backlinks are just one of many ranking factors that search engines take into account.

Pro tip: A study from fall 2020 found that shorter content earns the most backlinks, so keep that in mind when crafting your link-building strategy. 

11. Keep an eye on voice search

The appeal of being able to search without using a screen is understandable — you can get answers and find information while doing other activities like cooking or driving.

The concept isn’t new, but smart-home technology devices have taken the trend to a new level. More than 4 billion voice search devices were used in 2020, and the figure is slated to double by 2024.

Optimizing your site for voice search is a whole ‘nother ball game — but it can be done. Along with ensuring it loads quickly, you can optimize for voice search by:

  • Making sure your site is mobile responsive
  • Including long-tail, natural-sounding keywords
  • Prioritizing featured snippets
  • Keeping copy concise and digestible
  • Having strong local SEO (like a thorough and accurate Google My Business Page)

The takeaway

The algorithm’s goal is to help people find answers and resources they need. By implementing the above SEO best practices, not only will your site become easier to find, but you’ll be able to better connect with users and customers who can benefit from what you have to offer. 

Whether you’re fine-tuning your current strategy or starting from scratch, now is a great time to assess your goals, evaluate your current practices, and implement a stellar SEO plan.

Want even more expert tips to up your SEO game? Let’s chat.

This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 30 , 2020

Once you know these common search engine optimization (SEO) mistakes, you can take the proper steps to avoid them.

Here you’ll learn:

  • Some of the top SEO mistakes to avoid
  • Why you shouldn’t ignore technical SEO
  • A solid approach to SEO budget planning
  • Why SMART and OKR goal setting is great for SEO

The power of SEO is undeniable — data shows more than half of all website traffic comes from organic search. That’s why marketers work hard to implement all the available tactics at their disposal. 

But proper, well-rounded SEO is also highly intricate, involving on-page, off-page, and technical aspects. A more generic approach can lead to a variety of SEO mistakes that slow down the optimization process.

Once you know some of the most common SEO mistakes out there, you can be sure not to fall for them.

8 seo mistakes

Simply copying the competition’s strategy, especially with SEO, can be dangerous. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Expecting quick results

One of the most common SEO mistakes we see is the “need for speed.” Focusing on fast results usually undermines the entire SEO strategy, which leads to disappointment and mismanaged expectations. 

Depending on the condition of your website, the quality of content you publish, and the number of backlinks you garner, SEO can take at least four months to produce significant results. 

Pro tip: If you want quick output in the meantime, pay close attention to your paid search ads. They can help with lead generation while improving your SEO efforts.

2. Underestimating the cost

Don’t fall into the “too good to be true” SEO trap. Low-cost, high-quality, and fast-results SEO is the stuff fairy tales are made of. Anything from well-written blog articles and stellar SEO-friendly website design to proper competitor analysis calls for time and money investments. 

While it may not be as straightforward as your paid search budget, it’s worth factoring in funds for things like website updates, longform content designs, a social media manager, and a content agency partnership or content manager. As in most facets of your business, you get out what you put in.

3. Copying the competition

We’ve talked before about the importance of staying on top of what your competition is doing. Knowing which keywords they rank for, which backlinks they use, and which content they favor is the key to staying ahead. 

However, simply copying the competition’s strategy, especially with SEO, can be dangerous. Let’s break down a few reasons why.

Not seeing the full picture

When you’re simply copying what your competitors are doing, you could be missing the bigger picture. For example, some websites block SEO crawlers, so backlink reports you get are incomplete. If some backlinks are invisible to the tool you’re using, you could be copying an incomplete strategy, thus achieving worse results.

Google penalties

The other danger of copying the competition is not knowing how sustainable its strategy is. Your main competitor could have been achieving excellent results for a short time, only to be slapped with a Google penalty next month. The copycat will go down together with the culprit.

4. Using black and gray hat SEO tactics

Speaking of penalties, your competitors may or may not know the basic black-hat SEO techniques to avoid. Black-hat SEO tactics, which can be done purposefully or by accident, include publishing duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and using private link networks.

The thing about these risky SEO techniques is that Google knows all about them, and may ding your site if they catch you using them. After all, even if your intentions are good, search engines have no way of knowing it.

8 seo mistakes - team meeting

While you may be used to optimizing written content, don’t forget about photos, videos, and graphics too. (Image via Unsplash)

Pro tip: Search Engine Journal recently highlighted 8 on-page SEO techniques that Google hates. These include only optimizing for desktop, unnatural internal linking, and spammy website footers. 

5. Neglecting your technical SEO

We’re evangelists of technical SEO around here. That’s because we know it often gets ignored by marketers since it can be tricky to understand. But it’s too important to let fall by the wayside.

Technical SEO generally refers to things on your website like: 

  • URL structures
  • Page speed
  • Internal links
  • Site security
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Your site’s architecture and navigation
  • Meta data

Conducting an SEO audit can give you a good idea of where your technical SEO stands. From there, you can pinpoint areas of weakness and take the necessary steps to address any issues. 

Check out our webinar recording, The Importance of Technical SEO, for even more insight.

6. Focusing on search engines over customers

Even though SEO appears to be all about optimizing for search engines, that doesn’t mean they should be the only focus of your strategy. Google’s goal is to make search results as valuable to the user as possible. To make Google happy, it makes sense to adopt the same goal.

Writing for search engines may help you rise through the ranks temporarily, but it’s not the way to build solid SEO in the long-term. Instead, keep focused on educating your audience, providing a streamlined user experience, and publishing accurate content. 

7. Failing to set clear SEO goals

Aiming to nab the top organic spot on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) sounds like a good goal. But what good is a goal without a clear path to achieving it?

Before you hit the ground running on your SEO strategy, make sure to map out clear goals. Consider using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed) goals to ensure the proper structure of your campaign. 

You can also take advantage of the OKR (objectives and key results) approach to break down big goals into smaller components.

8. Ignoring video SEO practices

This SEO mistake is common because SEO tactics for things like video are relatively new to the landscape. While you may be used to optimizing written content, don’t forget about photos, videos, and graphics too. (Especially since Google reportedly prioritizes websites with video content.) Videos can increase your clickthrough rate (CTR), reduce bounce rate, and create quality backlinks. 

Here are some ways you can make sure your videos are set up for SEO success:

  • Include an easy way for viewers to share the video
  • Include a target keyword in your video’s file name
  • Add closed captions or subtitles to videos with dialog
  • Choose an eye-catching thumbnail image 

The takeaway

Even the most experienced SEO specialists make mistakes here and there. Learning from them can help you streamline your SEO campaign and remind you to stay in the loop on the latest developments.

Need more assistance with your SEO (or PPC) efforts? We’re here to help.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 31 , 2020

More and more searches are happening on smartphones — and Google is taking note. Here’s how to ensure your site is mobile-friendly so you don’t get left behind. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Tips for making your website mobile-friendly
  • Why a mobile-friendly site is key
  • Basic SEO best practices for mobile
  • A breakdown of mobile site solutions

Mobile users accounted for more than half of global online traffic in 2019, a trend that’s been steadily climbing the last 5 years. But despite the popularity of mobile search, only about 70% of websites are deemed mobile-friendly. 

A mobile-friendly site used to be a convenient, competitive advantage. Now, it’s a necessity if you want to stay relevant and competitive with others in your industry. 

Google’s been talking about mobile-first indexing, meaning the search engine bots crawl the mobile version of a site first, since 2016. (Many sites are already being indexed mobile-first.) In spring 2020, they announced they’d be launching mobile-first indexing for the entire web starting in September 2020. Due to the pandemic, they’ve since extended this to March 2021

This extra bit of time is a great opportunity to make sure your mobile site is optimized and ready to go by next spring. Below, we break down how to make sure your site is mobile-friendly so you don’t get left behind.

mobile friendly site audit

Once your first audit is complete, it’s wise to plan on performing regular audits at least once a year. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Perform a comprehensive audit

An audit will help identify problems or shortcomings with the current version of your website in terms of mobile-friendliness. You can then use the results to come up with a plan for optimizing your site. An audit will also generate a broad range of important and insightful metrics, including the number of mobile users visiting your site.

You can use Google Analytics to audit your website by the following this command path: Google Analytics > Audience > Mobile > Overview/Devices. Google Search Console will notify you of Mobile Usability errors, and Google has its own Mobile-Friendly Test tool as well.

Additionally, you can opt for premium third-party tools. If you don’t have the time or bandwidth to take on an audit, you could look into partnering with an agency who can recommend customized solutions based on the audit’s results.

The steps for an audit include:

  • Review your mobile experience with a device simulator on your desktop, or just use your actual phone. Start with the homepage then move to top landing pages and follow your website’s hierarchy and structure.
  • Take screenshots and notes of broken items, and consider the user’s experience. Can they find info fast? Is the page too long? What action do you want them to take on this small screen?
  • Prioritize universal fixes, then dig into smaller errors to see what the extent of the work to be done really is.

Once your first audit is complete, it’s wise to plan on performing regular audits at least once a year to ensure everything is still optimized and operating accordingly. Regular audits will also be helpful when it comes to keeping up with Google’s dynamic updates.

Pro tip: In Google Analytics, you can also view data like bounce rate per device category and type, pages per session, and average session duration. These KPIs will let you know if users are engaging well via mobile.

2. Choose an ideal mobile-friendly solution

There are four main solutions to choose from when making your website mobile-friendly. Here’s a brief overview of each solution, including what they have to offer:

Responsive web design 

This is the most popular solution, primarily because of convenience. It entails embedding a code that automatically adjusts the site’s contents to fit individual users’ devices, such as rearranging content and resizing fonts to fit small screens. 

Nothing else changes, including the original URL, and this solution is easy to maintain. However, the site’s response may be somewhat limited compared to other solutions.

Dynamic serving 

Dynamic serving involves detecting a user agent (mobile, tablet, or desktop) and generating a customized page with HTML and CSS optimized for use with that particular device. 

This solution’s main advantage is that you can display heavy content on your mobile pages. However, the solution can be costly to implement. Additionally, accuracy in detecting the user agent depends on your solution provider’s competence and quality.

Mobile version 

This solution entails creating a separate mobile website with separate content independent on the main desktop website. Mobile users are automatically redirected to the mobile version using a separate mobile domain name.

This solution is not recommended much anymore, as a separate mobile site is a no-no for mobile-first indexing. Another shortcoming of a mobile version is its limited content. It’s difficult to incorporate all content from the main desktop website. Plus, these sites are often harder to manage compared to other solutions.

Mobile app

A mobile app offers unparalleled user engagement and has the highest measured success rate. Mobile apps are also excellent for branding, as the design is customized specifically for mobile users. Advanced algorithms also enable customization for individual users.

The downside: A mobile app is generally more expensive than other mobile solutions. It also has a low retention rate due to the increased number of mobile apps and the fact that it requires extra effort from the user compared to browsing a website. To this end, mobile apps are often used as a complementary solution for these other mobile solutions.

mobile friendly website

Making your website mobile-friendly has gone from a nice-to-have to a necessary marketing component. (Image via Unsplash)

3. Adhere to mobile SEO best practices

Your mobile site’s success depends on how well it stands out to crawlers and Google’s ranking algorithms. The most effective way to compete is to adhere to Google’s recommended search engine optimization (SEO) practices. Pay particular attention to the following mobile SEO best practices:

  • Code in HTML5
  • Minimize your site’s loading time
  • Ensure your multimedia content (images, videos, etc.) is compressed to the lowest size possible without sacrificing resolution
  • Enable image files, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Avoid using iframes
  • Highlight navigation buttons and make them easy to access
  • Ensure you use the correct minimum font size (16px)
  • Optimize the page content to fit different screen sizes
  • Ensure your content’s font is easily readable
  • Make links easier to tap by placing them far apart
  • Make jump links available and avoid irrelevant cross-links
  • Use image alt tags
  • Enable automatic login
  • Highlight call-to-action buttons, including a click-to-call tab

These are just some of the basic mobile SEO best practices. Additionally, remember to watch out for Google’s periodic mobile-friendly site updates and adopt all recommended SEO practices.

The takeaway

Making your website mobile-friendly has gone from nice-to-have to a necessary marketing component. Google’s upcoming mobile-first site index launch will penalize websites that are not mobile-friendly.

With so much searching happening via smartphones, those who provide a poor-quality user experience on mobile simply won’t see the success of sites that do. All the more reason to take the time between now and March 2021 to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 26 , 2020

There’s no shortcut to good SEO, but the right agency can help you create a strategy that will have a lasting positive impact on your brand.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What questions to ask an SEO agency
  • How to set realistic expectations
  • A few red flags to look for
  • Why aligning on core values is key

When some people hear the word “elusive,” they may think of Mariah Carey (and rightfully so). But for those stuck on page 20 of search engine results pages (SERPs), that may be how they describe their SEO.

The good news: Partnering with an SEO agency can change all that by helping you become more visible in search results, boost your credibility, and more. But before you sign on the (virtual) dotted line, here are some secrets to success to keep in mind.

1. Make sure you’ve got a firm grasp on SEO

First things first: before you go through the process of connecting and vetting SEO agencies, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re up to speed on where SEO practices stand today. The industry is evolving quickly, so even if you’re familiar with the concept of SEO, there could be a development or two you’ve missed.

Having a firm grasp on the latest SEO methods that are most used today will help you be better prepared to ask all the right questions and know what to look for when optimizing your site and its content.

HawkSEM blog: 7 Success Secrets for Partnering with an SEO Agency

An SEO audit offers a clearer idea of where your company’s SEO currently stands. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Prepare for a full site and strategy audit

To prepare for a consultation, many agencies will perform an SEO audit of your website. This gives them a clearer idea of where your company’s SEO currently stands. A typical audit will pinpoint things like:

  • Site structure issues
  • User experience (UX) issues
  • Content gaps
  • On-page and off-site issues

The depth of the audit will depend on a few things, including the size of your business and how much content you have. Depending on how familiar you are with your site’s SEO, you may want to discuss internally with your team ahead of a consultation to determine things like:

  • How SEO is currently being implemented
  • What SEO processes are currently in place (if any)
  • How SEO is currently being tracked and measured
  • If an SEO audit has ever been conducted in the past

3. Set realistic expectations

Alright: this success secret is a big one. If an agency tells you they can swiftly get you from page 40 on Google to page 1, run. As Forbes reports, assuming SEO will be an overnight transformation is one of the biggest mistakes people make with search engine optimization.

Sure, SEO best practices can be implemented relatively quickly, but to see real results? That takes time. The reasons mainly boil down to the fact that multiple factors determine good SEO, and search engine algorithms constantly change with little to no warning. 

There’s no shortcut to building an authoritative brand with high-quality content. You can set measurable goals, but it’s a consistent practice, not a one-and-done task. A good agency will be upfront about that.

Pro tip: While building up SEO takes time, a seasoned SEO agency should be able to offer you a few quick wins right off the bat unless you’re doing everything absolutely right. (In which case, pat yourself on the back!)

4. Ask to see case studies, stats, or testimonials

A good agency will tell you how amazing they are. A great agency will show you, with stats and testimonials to back them up. During the vetting process, don’t be afraid to ask about references, case studies, or stats garnered through past SEO work.

You can also do your own independent research and check out any public reviews the company has on review sites or its social media pages, for added context.

HawkSEM blog: 7 Success Secrets for Partnering with an SEO Agency

You can get a sense of a company’s values by posing questions like, “What would past clients say about you?” (Image via Unsplash)

5. Understand their values and process

This success secret may not seem as important as the others, but it’s on this list for a reason. Finding an agency with core values that are similar to your own can be a helpful indicator in determining if a partnership will be successful.

In addition to straight-up asking them, you can get a sense of a company’s values by seeing how they talk about themselves on their website and posing questions like, “How do you describe your company in one sentence?” or “What would past clients say about you?”

But just because SEO takes time doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a clear, actionable plan in place. Don’t be afraid to ask for details when it comes to their SEO process. They should have a good roster of specific steps they take. 

Looking to up your SEO game? Check out our guide: 10 Quick Tips to Improve Your SEO Today.

6. Make sure pricing is clear

When partnering with an SEO agency, as in most other business cases, you get what you pay for. That means that if a company promises the moon and stars for a rock-bottom price, it may be too good to be true. These agencies often employ “black hat” or shady tactics, which can actually end up hurting your SEO rankings.

When looking at pricing, you want to be clear on what’s included in the SEO agency’s rate. Some may simply optimize your site and content or provide recommendations for your developer and marketing team to carry out. 

Others will take the time to understand your goals, help you create a targeted keyword list, create optimized content for you, and work closely with you to implement their recommendations.

Pro tip: Communication style is another key thing on which both of your teams should be aligned. Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to how you’ll be communicating (via emails, video calls, Slack, etc.) and how often you’ll be doing check-ins or status updates.

HawkSEM blog: 7 Success Secrets for Partnering with an SEO Agency

The most effective SEO agency partnership will include plenty of involvement on your side — to the benefit of your overall brand. (Image via Unsplash)

7. Remember: it’s a partnership

Sure, you’re partnering with SEO experts because you want them to take the reins and ensure your business is performing the best it can in search engine rankings. But it’s still a partnership. The most effective SEO agency partnership will include plenty of involvement on your side — to the benefit of your overall brand.

Once you figure out a solid communication style and cadence, align on goals, and put a strong plan in place, regularly scheduled calls or check-ins are a great way to keep everyone on the same page.

The takeaway

A well-rounded SEO agency can be a game-changer when it comes to growing awareness and exposure for your business. The above tips will help you feel confident when entering into a partnership with an agency.

Interested in how HawkSEM can take your SEO to the next level? Request a consultation here.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 19 , 2020

In business, competition always gets in the way — in SEO, your competitors are your best friends.  

Here you’ll learn:

  • Who your SEO competition is
  • How to learn from your competitors
  • Ways to capitalize on your competition’s mistakes
  • Which tools to use to conduct a top-notch competitor analysis

While focusing on your own brand’s mission is key, not keeping an eye on your competitors is a risky move. After all, if you can’t see how fast your competition is going, they’re more likely to lap you in the race.

That’s where a competitor analysis comes in. By learning how to analyze what your competition is doing, you can adjust your marketing campaign to beat them.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what competitor analysis for SEO is and how it can help you stay on top of your game.

Who is your SEO competition?

It’s likely that you already have an excellent idea of who your business competitors are. But these are hardly the only companies you need to consider when fighting for the coveted top spots of Google search results. During your SEO campaign, you may be facing competitors who don’t belong in your niche.

For example, if you want to rank high for the “best flowers in LA,” you aren’t just competing with the local florists. You could be fighting against designers and review sites, making your climb to the top spot twice as tough.

The truth about SEO competitors is simple: They’re the companies that rank high for the keywords you’re targeting — even if they aren’t your business competitors.

hawksem: Competitor Analysis for SEO

While analyzing your competition, look for weaknesses or gaps you could fill. (Image via Unsplash)

Luckily, finding your competitors is easy. All you need to do is enter your keywords into the search field and see what pops up on the first few pages.

You want to analyze the competition so you can:

  • Strengthen your keyword search
  • Improve your content
  • Capitalize on your competition’s weaknesses
  • Find out what works and what doesn’t in your industry

All’s fair in love, war, and SEO, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about finding inspiration in your competitors’ campaigns.

While analyzing your competition, look for weaknesses or gaps you could fill. If the competitor ranks high for the same keyword, find out where they make mistakes or seem to come up short. Improve your efforts in those sectors, and you could come out on top. Here’s how to do it.

1. Identify their keywords

To strengthen your keyword search, you need to figure out which keywords your competitors rank for. This can help you find keywords with high search volume that they aren’t using enough. It can also help you understand what works in your specific industry.

Doing all that is fairly easy, thanks to numerous tools that help you analyze another website and see which keywords it ranks for. 

You can use these same tools on your website to see how good your keyword efforts are:

These programs also allow you to see how well your website ranks for some keywords compared to the competition. You could discover money keywords that you’ve overlooked.   

2. Analyze their content

Since content is the pillar of SEO, you need top-notch ideas. An excellent place to get them is to analyze what the competition is doing.

How do you figure out how well their content is working? Find out which content got the competitor the most links. Achieving high-quality backlinks is imperative to ranking high with search engines. 

Some link checker tools to help you include:

Once you find the competitor’s top content, check it for flaws. Maybe the word count is too low, the info is outdated, or their imagery is low-quality. 

Take advantage of the information you’ve gathered to create similar content, only better. Your goal is to come up with the content that offers significantly more value to the target audience.

You don’t always need to go deep into content analysis. By using the above tools, you can simply get inspiration for tweaking your content strategy.

Pro tip: While it’s natural to cover similar topics to your competition through content, don’t simply imitate. You don’t want to look like a mere copycat (or dip into plagiarism territory), so make sure the content you publish follows your brand’s own voice and tone.

3. Find dead pages

Seeking out dead pages is a time-consuming yet highly effective way to take advantage of your competitor’s mistakes. This part of the competitor analysis involves finding dead pages on your competition’s website that other companies have linked to. 

Once you find it, you can reach out to those who have linked to this content, show them the page isn’t working, and provide them with a link to your content instead. (If you already have a relevant article, great! If not, write one up and publish it, then send away.)

Links to dead pages can lower the website’s rankings. That’s why people are more than happy to replace them with live alternatives.

  • Find the 404 pages on the competitor’s website by using Ahref’s Site Explorer or ScreamingFrog.
  • Use Dead Link Checker to verify that the links to this page aren’t working.
  • Recreate content and offer the website owner to link to your article instead of your competitor’s 404 page.
HawkSEM: SEO Competitor Analysis

Analyzing your SEO competition can help you gain valuable insight into what works in your industry. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Analyze their website

If your competition is ranking high for your favorite keywords, see if you can find some flaws in their website design. From there, you can focus on making your website better and nullifying your competition’s efforts. Things to pay attention during a competitor audit include:

  • Site structure — How the content is organized on the website (subdomains, internal links, etc.)
  • Site speed — How fast do pages load? Can you make your website’s loading speed better?
  • Mobile-friendliness — How good does the website look on mobile devices? Are all the necessary features available to mobile users?
  • User interface — Is the site easy to navigate? What about hreflang (which, as SEMrush explains, tells search engines the relationship between pages in different languages on your site)?

You can crawl the entire site to find out how your competitors structure subfolders, use internal links, and take advantage of on-page SEO. These tools can help:

5. Look at their Google My Business page

For local companies, a Google My Business page can be a highly important SEO tool. Ask yourself: What is our competition doing to look appealing on this page?

  • Do they update the page regularly?
  • Do they use images?
  • Are there reviews?
  • How many people are following the page?

If any of these components are lacking, you can capitalize on mistakes and hone your Google My Business page accordingly. If they do a great job maintaining this page, see what you can do to mirror them.

The takeaway

Analyzing your SEO competition through a competitor analysis can help you gain valuable insight into what works in your industry. It’s win-win: You can see what they’re doing right and determine ways to follow suit, and you can also capitalize on their mistakes or areas where they fall short.

Looking at what your competition is doing isn’t just a smart trick: It’s an integral part of a solid search engine optimization strategy.

Want to learn more about analyzing your SEO competition? Let’s talk.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 12 , 2020

Launching a new website doesn’t have to mean starting your SEO from scratch 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why preserving your SEO is important
  • Steps to take to safeguard your SEO
  • Why creating a temporary site is recommended
  • Ways to test website elements before going live

When you’ve spent years strategically constructing your former site’s content and strengthening each keyword, you’ve likely built up decently strong search engine optimization (SEO). Good website SEO takes time, and once you’ve found success with it, guarding that success is a must.

So, what happens to your SEO once you revamp and launch your new site, or move it to a new domain?

Savvy digital marketers know preserving your SEO during the redesign or site migration process is critical. This 7-step website SEO checklist will help you get started.

HawkSEM: new website seo - balloons

Historical data is equally important in the SEO process, so instead of deleting old content, create a plan to improve it. (Image via Unsplash)

Steps to take to safeguard your SEO

Before you launch a new website, you need to protect your current site’s SEO to remain relevant on search engines and appear in organic searches. Here’s how to do it.

1. Audit your current site

A technical audit crawls your old site for errors. By establishing areas of concern on your former site, you can save yourself some headaches when launching your new site.  

Some examples of site errors include:

  • Broken internal or external links
  • Large files causing a slow load process
  • Low text to HTML ratio
  • Invalid sitemap.xml format
  • Non-secure pages
  • Duplicate title tags

2. Benchmark existing metrics

Document and save your old site’s performance progress. Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools to aggregate and assess site data. 

If you don’t have a sitemap for your old website, it’s a good idea to create one, along with a new version for the new site. Comparison metrics will assist you in analyzing and implementing each element of your new site. 

3. Use similar content

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The same can be said about your new site content.

Keep your old content
Comparable content provides uninterrupted optimization, helping you score higher organic search engine results page (SERP) rankings. This is why it’s wise to move old site content over to the new site. Historical data is equally important in the SEO process, so instead of deleting old content, create a plan to improve it.

Keywords
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to keywords for your new or revamped site. Rather, you can create a spreadsheet, organize each keyword, and compare the productivity. List the corresponding search volumes and define the strongest players from there.

One topic per page
Optimizing one keyword per page increases your site relevancy. Because of this, it’s a good idea to try to use only one topic and keyword per page on your site.

4. Create a temporary site

When your site is under construction, consider generating a temporary URL to use as your “staging site” during the design process. Using a temporary site curbs the risk of your new site being indexed while under construction. 

Users will also still have continued access to your former site to avoid any conversion interruption. 

HawkSEM: new website SEO - compass

Test to make sure each icon, button, and form operates and connects to the correct destination. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Test the 301 redirects

Permanent 301 redirects help confirm that each former URL is directed to the new URL. Keep things organized by creating a spreadsheet to map out each redirect. (Broken links are major hiccups and will slow down the SEO process.)

Watch out for deleted pages as well as static content. The technical audit will also effectively mend these possible glitches.

6. Update buttons, logos, and forms 

One misdirected link and you might lose the visitor for good. To develop a seamless site experience, test to make sure each icon, button, and form operates and connects to the correct destination.

Social media buttons
Social media can play a huge part in driving traffic to your site. When adding new social media buttons, make sure each icon is highly visible to the viewer and properly linked. 

If you’re a company that has multiple accounts within one social media platform (such as regular and support-specific Twitter accounts), verify that you’re linking to the proper account consistent with the relevant page content. 

Logos
Make sure each partner brand and logo is updated, since companies and organizations may have redesigned their logos.

Call to action (CTA)
Depending on your site’s CTA, test each link for the proper conversion. For example, if you want the viewer to subscribe to your newsletter, verify that each component of the sign-up form is functioning.

7. Choose the right agency

If you’re not going the DIY route (which can be a big — and potentially risky — undertaking), choosing the right agency for your site’s redesign or migration is critical.

When interviewing each agency, ask questions such as:

  • What are your revamp or migration strategies?
  • Do you have steps in place to preserve SEO?
  • Have you successfully revamped or migrated sites before?
  • What tactics do you use to avoid errors?

The takeaway

With the right strategy in place, you can easily integrate your previous site’s optimized data into your new website SEO strategy. 

Maintaining your SEO performance increases your new site’s relevancy, authenticity, and trustworthiness. By incorporating all of the elements above, your conversion rate will thrive and your new website will be a huge success.

Want more info on performing a site migration? Check out our guide. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Justine Rabideau on Apr 1 , 2020

From keyword research to content promotion, here’s the 411 on creating a content strategy designed with SEO in mind.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The 3 pillars of a successful SEO content strategy
  • A breakdown of 8 steps to follow
  • Pro tips to help you optimize your website content
  • How to create a plan for regular content revitalization
SEO Content Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

(Image via Unsplash)

Creating a content strategy — especially one designed for maximum SEO impact — is a much more in-depth process than sitting down, typing out a bunch of words, and posting it on your website. Let’s take a step back.

Why does having an effective content strategy even matter? For starters, having a good content strategy can increase your organic traffic from search engines, grow your email subscribers, and help expand your social reach. 

Data from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy. If you’re writing content that engages users and addresses their pain points, it can boost your overall brand authority in the eyes of the consumer and help lift you over your competitors.

Below, we’ve broken it down into 3 pillars highlighting what to do before, during, and after creating your content for maximum SEO success.

Pillar 1: Preparing to write your content

There’s a bit of legwork to be done before you put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard). This stage is extremely important, so we advise not skipping it in order to rush right into the writing portion.

Understand your target audience

The first question to ask before you write any piece of content or start developing your overall content strategy is, who is my target audience? Who is going to actually be reading and digesting this content?  

If you already have audience personas built out, that’s great! You’re one step ahead. If not, you can begin building them by considering  your target audience’s age range, locations, interests, and job titles. If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, you likely have access to a lot of this data already. You can also find demographic and interest data in Google Analytics and within the analytics section of your social media profiles. 

If somewhere the data doesn’t match what you’d expect it to look like — if it looks radically different in your Google Analytics profile compared to your existing CRM, for example — you could be missing out on opportunities or speaking to the wrong audience. 

Pro tip: In Google Analytics, “affinity audiences” allows you to see information on people who are actively researching a particular product or service. You might be surprised at some of the things that you find in these audience interest categories, so they’re worth looking into.

SEO content strategy - HawkSEM

A look at topic and questions research in SEMrush.

Conduct keyword and topic research

Keywords don’t mean as much in the SEO world as they used to. Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times a year. Some updates are bigger than others, but the most recent ones have focused on better understanding human language and how specific terms relate to topics, as it becomes increasingly reliant on AI and machine learning. (Perhaps unsurprising, due to the rise of voice search and smart speakers.)

Thinking beyond keywords will be increasingly important as Google’s algorithm continues down the path of machine learning and artificial intelligence to power search results. Luckily, tools like SEMrush can help you delve more into the topics and questions people are typing into the search bar.

Pro tip: Keyword research is still important to your SEO content strategy. You want to make sure you understand the search volume and difficulty of ranking for your key terms. 

When conducting keyword research, you want to check what keywords you’re currently ranking for first. It’s a good idea to start here so you don’t spend time focusing on a keyword you’re already ranking for. This way, you can also identify any keyword gaps where you might be missing opportunities. You can use tools like Moz and Ahrefs to find related keywords, volume, and difficulty of terms that you discovered but that you’re not ranking for. 

In most cases, the higher volume a term is, the more difficult it’s going to be to rank for because it’s probably a lot more competitive, with a higher amount of other sites targeting that same keyword.

HawkSEM SEO content strategy - content calendar infographic

Build out a content calendar

Many marketers immediately think of blogs when they hear “content.” But there are many different content types that can increase user engagement and earn more backlinks. 

These could include:

  • E-books
  • Case studies
  • Videos 
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts

Of course, some pieces of content are going to take a lot longer to build out than others. Planning it out ahead of time and having a solid schedule in place will keep you organized and on the right track. This can be as simple or as detailed as you want — even a shared Google spreadsheet can get the job done.

Details you may want to include in your content calendar are:

  • The type of content
  • The due date for the author to submit the content
  • The date the content is slated to go live
  • The associated keyword or terms
  • The author’s name 
SEO content strategy - HawkSEM

E-A-T is a complex topic, but it ties back to that concept of writing for people and not search engines. (Image via Unsplash)

Pillar 2: Writing and editing your content

Once you’ve done all the research and prepped your content calendar, it’s time for the actual writing! 

Write for people, not search engines

When it comes to your SEO content strategy, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should be writing for people, not search engines. Consider Google’s main goal: to provide users with the best, most engaging content that answers the query they typed into the search box. If you can satisfy those requirements, that’s going to help you rank.

If you find yourself obsessing over things like content length or the number of times that you use the keyword within a piece, take a step back and put yourself in the user’s shoes instead. If they stumble across your content, would they find the information valuable? 

Would they want to:

  • Come back and read more because your content really wowed them?
  • Be inclined to trust you since your content helped them or answered their question?
  • Take an action like signing up for a newsletter or downloading another piece of content?
  • Request a demo or consultation?

Consider E-A-T

E-A-T is a relatively new concept in the SEO world — it stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. This acronym is meant to help content developers and SEO pros understand how Google rates high-quality content. 

E-A-T really comes into play for sites that Google considers “your money, your life,” or YMYL (though it applies to other topics as well). These include topics like legal and financial advice, medical issues, and other things that impact your quality of life. Google understands that, for these queries, finding the best and most accurate answers is particularly paramount, so they want to make sure the info they provide is sourced from qualified professionals.

Ask these questions to determine E-A-T standards

There are questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re meeting E-A-T standards. For expertise, you can ask: 

  • Is this content written by an expert or an enthusiast who is reliable and knows the topic well? 
  • Is Google able to recognize this person as an expert?
  • Is it referencing credible sources and actual statistics?
  • Should people feel comfortable trusting this content with YMYL decisions?

For authority, you can ask:

  • If someone researched the site producing this content, would they come away with the impression that it was trustworthy and recognized as an authority?
  • Does the site have verified client testimonials?
  • Is there an “About” page on the website?
  • Is there any additional content on the site showing this brand has authority on this topic?

For trustworthiness, you can ask:

  • Does the content present itself in a way that makes you want to trust it?
  • Is there trustworthiness in the expertise of the person writing the piece? 
  • Are there trustworthy backlinks pointing to this site? 
  • Does the overall site look trustworthy? 

E-A-T is a complex topic, but it ties back to that concept of writing for people and not search engines. 

Pro tip: When it comes to writing, there’s no one-size-fits-all number for how many times you should use a specific keyword in your copy. If you think maybe you may be on the verge of keyword stuffing, read it out loud and see if it sounds natural to the human ear.

Pillar 3: Publishing and promoting your content

Once the copy is written and optimized, it’s time to publish and promote. After all, what good is high-quality content if no one sees it?

Remember on-site SEO best practices

On-site SEO refers to general best practices to keep in mind with any piece you write. This includes things like having a page title and meta description. Ideally, both of these elements will have keywords in them, since Google uses them to help understand the content of your page. 

Headings also help Google understand the different sections of your content. If you have a long-form article with more than 1,000 words, those headings help search engines understand what each section is about. They also make it easier for users to scan and quickly find the content they are looking for.

For SEO purposes, it’s a good idea to leverage internal links with keyword-rich anchor text. You’ve probably seen plenty of links with “click here” or “learn more” as their anchor text. But Google uses anchor text to understand what the page’s content is about, so if you’re using generic phrases, Google’s going to have a harder time understanding your link.

You can also use high-authority external links as needed. If you’re referencing a study from the CDC or the FDA, for example, those are good high-authority external links. 

Have a content revitalization strategy

Writing new and exciting content is key to a successful SEO strategy. But if you publish a piece of content and never touch it again, you’re doing your business a major disservice. 

If you have blogs that are 5 or even 10 years old, there’s probably information in them that’s not accurate or relevant anymore. Having a plan for regularly updating those pieces with the latest information when it becomes available can have a huge impact on your site traffic and rankings. That’s where conducting a content audit comes in.

The 7 steps to conducting a content audit are:

  • Create a spreadsheet list of all content URLs
  • Determine how many sessions each page had over the past 6 months (or longer depending on how much traffic comes to your site) and how many backlinks point to each page
  • Identify pages with “thin content” that may not satisfy a user’s search intent
  • Look for posts with duplicate or similar topics and consider removing or combining them into one long-form piece
  • Identify posts with outdated content or older statistics and update with more recent information
  • Don’t forget to redirect posts removed from the site to avoid 404 errors
  • Repeat this process regularly (once or twice a year) to keep your content fresh and relevant

As you can see, this can be a time-intensive exercise, depending on how much content you post, but the results are worth it. 

SEO content strategy - social promotion - HawkSEM

Amplifying your content on social channels and through email also keeps your brand top-of-mind for your audience.

Amplify your content 

A piece of content you don’t share via social media or email channels is unlikely to get much traction. Although social shares and likes aren’t direct organic ranking factors, if Google sees a lot of engagement on a page or post, it’s a signal of high-quality content.

Amplifying your content on social channels and through email also keeps your brand top-of-mind for your audience. 

The takeaway

High-quality content can be a game-changer when it comes to your site’s SEO. Not only that, but it helps illustrate to users that you’re a trustworthy thought leader. 

By following the above steps and having a solid, doable plan in place, you’ll have a robust, thorough content library worth bragging about. 

For more on this topic, check out our webinar, 10 Steps to Creating a Content Strategy for SEO.

Justine Rabideau

Justine Rabideau

    Justine Rabideau is HawkSEM's Lead Strategist. She's in charge of leading and executing marketing strategies across the digital spectrum including PPC, social media, and SEO. She has worked with clients of all sizes and budgets across a variety of industries. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, reading, and Netflix.

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    Written by Justine Rabideau on Feb 6 , 2020

    Because ranking on the first page of Google can bring significant traffic, raise brand awareness, drive conversions & more

    Here, you’ll find:

    • The steps to conducting an SEO audit
    • Why an SEO audit is important for your site
    • The tools that’ll help you audit your site
    • Common SEO missteps to avoid

    Google and other search engines are a huge source of opportunity for businesses. That’s where an SEO audit comes in. Having a site with strong SEO is key, since 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines. The core of an effective SEO strategy is about improving your rankings and trying to appear on page one.

    HawkSEM: SEO Audit 101: What You Need to Know

    The three pillars of an effective SEO strategy are on-site structure, content, and your link profile. (Image via Rawpixel)

    Conducting an SEO audit helps you pinpoint missing parts or areas of improvement in your current strategy. It also gives you a helpful framework you can refer to down the line to ensure you’re doing everything you can to rank as highly as possible in organic search results.

    The three pillars of an effective SEO strategy are on-site structure, content, and your link profile. What do all of those terms mean? Keep reading to find out.

    On-site structure

    Because Google crawls millions of web pages per day, a clean on-site structure is crucial to any SEO strategy. On-site structure refers to:

    • Technical issues
    • Mobile performance
    • Page speed
    • User behavior

    Not having the proper structure in place can seriously hinder your ability to rank on page one. For example, users will get frustrated and leave your site without taking action if it doesn’t load fast enough. Let’s dig into the elements of on-site structure.

    Perform a technical audit

    There are lots of different tools out there that will help you audit your site and uncover any technical issues that might be going on during your SEO audit. We often use SEMrush: it gives users a high-level overview of errors (which are more serious issues), warnings (which should be addressed, but aren’t as pressing), and notices (which are mostly for awareness).

    When you run a site crawl, there are dozens of technical issues these tools are looking for, such as:

    HawkSEM: SEO Audit 101: What You Need to Know

    But don’t be alarmed! If the technical jargon overwhelms or confuses you, working with an SEO expert and a web development team can do wonders to ease your mind. After all, they work with this type of language every day and know how to address and correct these issues.

    Pro tip: Crawling your site for technical issues isn’t a one-and-done exercise. This is something that you should do regularly (ideally once a month or more depending on the size of your site). After all, new issues can pop up anytime.

    Check indexed pages

    Once you run a technical crawl, a good next step is to check and see what pages are indexed in search engines. As Google explains, a page is “indexed” if it has been visited by the search engine’s crawler, analyzed for content and meaning, and stored in the search engine’s index. 

    To check indexed pages, head to the search engine, then type “site:” and your domain into the query box. The below example shows this for our site, hawksem.com. 

    HawkSEM: SEO Audit 101: What You Need to Know

    This allows you to see if there are pages that should not be indexed because you don’t want users visiting them. For example, development or staging pages from a site redesign should be removed immediately.

    You also most likely don’t want landing pages solely used for paid efforts to be indexed. (To deindex a page quickly, you can leverage a tool like Google’s Remove URLs Tool.) You should also ensure these pages contain a “noindex” tag so Google crawlers knows not to index that page in the future.

    On the other hand, you could have pages that are missing from the index and missing out on a huge portion of traffic. If for some reason the crawlers aren’t getting to your blog content, you want to look into why it’s not crawling and indexing as it should be.

    Review mobile friendliness

    Mobile accounts for 58% of all Google searches, meaning more than half of us search on our phones. Not only are people using mobile more frequently but, in early 2018, Google announced that they’re crawling the mobile version of your site first. 

    You’ll have a hard time ranking well if your mobile site isn’t fast and easy to navigate. Even if most of your website traffic is currently coming from desktop users, it’s still extremely important to pay attention to your mobile site and mobile experience.

    To know if your site is mobile-friendly, you can use a tool like the Google Mobile Friendly Test. If your results say your site has issues, the tool will give you suggestions for how to fix them and improve the mobile experience.

    Pro tip: It used to be a best practice to have your regular site and your mobile site be separate, perhaps with a different or modified URL. That’s not the case anymore. Ideally, you want a website that’s responsive to all devices and sizes (since device sizes can vary).

    Test page speed

    Some people think mobile friendliness and page speed are tied together. While it’s true they’re closely related, page speed is a separate (but equally important) ranking factor. 

    The fact is, 53% of users abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. While 3 seconds sounds really fast, most users today have been trained to want things faster. And if a site seems sluggish, users will probably bounce and seek out another site that will give them the information they’re looking for in a flash.

    Resources like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and HubSpot’s Website Grader will tell you your average load speed. They also offer recommendations and more information to help improve speed.

    Analyze on-site user behavior

    Google Analytics is one of the most important tools to measure your organic traffic and engagement during an SEO audit. It can offer you huge amounts of data to measure things like user behavior, site flow, and more. 

    HawkSEM: SEO Audit 101: What You Need to Know

    In the Audience Overview section of Google Analytics, you can segment the traffic by organic only. Then, you can see how many users and sessions organic traffic drove over a certain time period. It’s also possible to segment all organic traffic, which includes other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and more, vs. just Google traffic. 

    You can also view engagement metrics like bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. This can help determine how engaging your content and website design are for users.

    Don’t panic if the bounce rate looks high or your average session duration looks low! It’s all about looking at this in context. If users are bouncing but spending two minutes on your page, it means they’re likely reading the content but not taking further action like clicking to another page. 

    The homepage is usually the top driver of traffic. It typically has the most  backlinks and ranks for branded terms, so this is to be expected. As you continue your SEO efforts, your goal should be to get more traffic to some of these internal pages instead. This way, users get to the content they’re searching for as quickly as possible and don’t have to land on your homepage and navigate to it.

    HawkSEM: SEO Audit 101: What You Need to Know

    Focus your content strategy

    Once you’ve identified crawling or technical issues and reviewed how users are behaving on our site you can move on to content strategy. The content on your site has huge impacts on your ability to rank well in search engines. It also affects how your users navigate your site.

    Determine your personas & audience

    When you’re defining your content strategy, the first step is to understand who your audiences are through personas. Personas help you understand your audience in-depth: their goals, pain points, and what they’re looking for. Once you understand your audience, you can appropriately write content that meets their needs.

    The No. 1 rule of content writing for the web is to write for the user, not search engines. Google’s goal when ranking pages is to give the user the most informative results that will answer their question or query. Satisfying that requirement is what’s going to help you rank. 

    Pro tip: When developing a content strategy, don’t forget about video and images. These types of content are very engaging and can be shared on social media as well. 

    Conduct keyword research

    Keyword research is crucial to understanding what keywords your target audience is typing into search engines. Ideally, you want to use your content to answer these queries as thoroughly as possible. Everyone has their own tools and methods for doing keyword analysis, but the guide below is a great place to start. 

    HawkSEM: SEO Audit 101: What You Need to Know

    This SEMrush example graph illustrates how a website has ranked over time. SEMRush is a great tool to use for this part of your SEO audit because it also shows where Google algorithm updates happened, which may have affected performance. You can also add notes in Google Analytics (called annotations) to be able to quickly reference historical changes, like a site redesign, and identify patterns. 

    Next, you want to dig into which keywords you’re currently ranking for and which pages are ranking for those queries. Perhaps the most important place to check your current keyword rankings is Google Search Console. You can also view how many impressions you’re getting for certain keywords, average position, and what your clickthrough rate (CTR) is for those keywords.

    After analyzing your list of keywords you’re ranking for, tools like Moz, SEMRush and Ahrefs can show you the search volume, competition, and related keywords for the terms that are worth targeting. One of the best ways to find keywords and related questions is by doing your own search engine query and seeing what comes up. You can review SERP features like “People also ask,” Featured Snippets, and the related searches at the bottom of the results page as well.

    Pro tip: Don’t forget long-tail keywords. There can be significant volume on keywords with four or more words. Plus, competition is generally lower for these terms vs. more broad terms.

    Audit your content strategy

    Once you’ve done the keyword research and determined what pages are ranking and which are not, the next step is to conduct a content marketing SEO audit.  This process can help uncover pages that could be hindering your performance and opportunities to revitalize and improve existing content.

    1. Pull a list of all blog URLs on your website into a spreadsheet (Hint: you can use the site search method discussed earlier, or your sitemap)
    2. Use Google Analytics to see how many site visits each page has had over the past six months, and use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to see how many backlinks it has (this process will take quite a bit of time, depending on the amount of pages on your site)
    3. Identify pages with “thin content” that don’t satisfy user intent. The exception to this would be press releases or event pages, which are naturally going to be shorter pages
    4. Look for any posts that have duplicate content or topics and decide if they should be combined into one long-form pillar post or removed from your site
    5. Identify posts with outdated content and make a plan to update that content as needed — it helps to keep a running list if posts need to be updated on a regular basis
    6. Repeat! (Ideally, on an annual or bi-annual basis)

    Analyze your link profile

    When you’re reviewing your link profile during an SEO audit, you want to focus on backlink analysis, disavowing spam links, and internal linking. 

    Many digital marketers have a love-hate relationship with backlinks, because getting quality backlinks (which are links to your site that originate on another credible website) can be a difficult and tedious process. But it’s an important part of your SEO, as are the other strategies below.

    Audit your backlink strategy

    Many digital marketers have a love-hate relationship with backlinks. Getting quality backlinks (which are links to your site that originate on another credible website) can be a difficult and tedious process.

    The first step in a backlink audit is to use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to download a list of your existing backlinks. From there, you should review and assess each individual link to determine its quality. Depending on how many links you have, this could be a long process, but we promise it’s worthwhile. 

    While each tool has a different way to assess link equity, like Domain Authority vs. Domain Rating, it’s worth noting that Google has its own proprietary way to measure link equity. Remember, these metrics don’t mean anything in a bubble. They’re mostly helpful when comparing your site to competitors and others ranking for your keywords. Pick whichever tool you feel comfortable with and use those metrics to measure the quality of a specific link or website.

    Don’t immediately disavow a link just because one of these tools says it has lower Domain Authority or Domain Rating than yours. Relevancy is more important than these metrics.

    To assess link quality during your SEO audit, ask yourself these questions:

    • Does the site seem completely irrelevant to your industry? 
    • Are there a significant amount of ads? 
    • Does the website feature “unsavory” content? 
    • Is the anchor text clearly spamming to get keywords into the link? 

    If there’s a link you don’t actually want associated with your site, you can disavow it, which tells Google to ignore that link. This tool should only be used if you’re highly confident the links could be hurting your ability to rank, otherwise you can drastically harm your SEO efforts.

    Pro tip: Don’t pay to have your site listed somewhere for the purposes of increasing backlinks. You’ll almost definitely get caught and penalized. It’s not worth the short-terms gains it might bring, so focus on links gained naturally by creating valuable content.

    Review your internal linking strategy

    Internal links (links on your site that link to other places on your site) are often overlooked, but are just as important as your backlinks. It’s difficult to control which sites are linking to you and what anchor text they use, but you have full control over internal links.

    Make sure the internal links you add in your content are relevant. Links higher up on the page are crawled first and are therefore considered most important to Google. You should also use external links to relevant, authoritative sources to help Google understand your website is legitimate. However, you want to use an internal link over an external link as much as possible.

    There are some common mistakes you want to avoid when it comes to internal linking, such as:

    • using generic phrases in anchor text like “click here” or “learn more”
    • excessive linking via images instead of text (though it’s OK to link via images once in awhile, text links are preferred)
    • linking to your homepage — this is almost certainly your highest authority page already and doesn’t provide any use for the user, who could just click on your logo to go back to the homepage

    The takeaway

    A deep-dive SEO audit like the one described above takes time, effort, and dedication, but the knowledge and insight you’ll get in return are immeasurable. By getting familiar with these tools, following these best practices, and committing to regular SEO audits, you’ll start to see your organic rankings climb — and what’s a better feeling than that?

    For more on this topic, check out our webinar, SEO Audit 101: Take Your SEO from So-So to Stellar

    Need more SEO help? We’re here for you.

    Justine Rabideau

    Justine Rabideau

      Justine Rabideau is HawkSEM's Lead Strategist. She's in charge of leading and executing marketing strategies across the digital spectrum including PPC, social media, and SEO. She has worked with clients of all sizes and budgets across a variety of industries. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, reading, and Netflix.

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