SEO: The 8 key researching, reviewing and planning tasks that every website needs

28/01/2020 17:41:23
Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be overwhelming, even scary, with its ever-changing landscape and algorithm updates constantly moving the goal posts. On top of that, there is always so much that you need to do and stay on top of, from creating and optimising content, to managing your backlink profile and implementing structured data, and let’s not forget about the off-page and technical side of things. The list just goes on and on. And just when you think you are starting to understand it, someone comes along with a new approach, ranking factor or update that makes you question everything you know.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the rewards for getting SEO right are huge, it can literally be the difference between a company being a massive success or going bankrupt. Whether you’re a marketer, manager or business owner, if you are responsible for a website, then getting even a basic understanding of SEO is vital.
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At the Partners Group, we are big believers in being prepared through research, reviews and planning. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” and this is very much the approach we recommend when it comes to SEO. Through in-depth research, reviews and planning you are essentially sharpening your ‘axe’ so that when it comes to actually doing the work, you know exactly what needs doing, how it should be done and why. Why swing that axe lots of times when a sharpened axe will do it in one?
With that in mind, here are the 8 key SEO researching, reviewing and planning tasks that we recommend every webmaster does:

No.1: Site Strategy Planning

If you only choose one thing from this list then this is the one to go for. We can’t stress enough how important it is to have a site strategy and clear plans in place, otherwise your website will quickly become stagnant and drop into the internet abyss. Obviously, this should tie into the overall marketing and business strategies but should also incorporate SEO and technology advancements. The strategy should set the overall objectives for the year, with clearly defined goals and the right tools in place to enable accurate monitoring and reporting.

How often should you do site strategy planning?

Annually - In order to keep evolving the website to improve it and keep it up to date, every year a site strategy plan should be created.
Every six months - As things can change very quickly in today’s fast paced digital world, the site strategy plan should be reviewed at least once every six months, if not more often, to ensure that the objectives for the plan are still correct, and making changes and additions if required. 

No.2: Keyword Research and Reviews

Keyword researchThrough keyword research you can identify what your target audience is interested in and what their requirements are, which then enables you to create and market the right content to turn them into a client or customer. Fundamentally, this is the primary goal for your website, turning visitors into customers, making keyword research vital for the success of your website.
A keyword target list should form part of your website site strategy as it will be used for targeted marketing, as well as benchmarking and reviewing the performance of your site. The list should contain a mixture of keywords the site is currently ranking for, as well as some new target keywords. Once your target keyword list is created, we recommend you take a record of your rankings for the keywords as a starting point.

How often should you review your target keywords?

We believe that a detailed keyword performance review is conducted at least twice a year, but we would also advise that you check on your keyword rankings every month or so, as this is the best indication as to whether the work you are doing on the site is working or not.

No.3: SEO and Technical Performance Review

Getting good SEO results and having a good technical performance come hand in hand. A technically poor site will hinder your SEO efforts, a great technically performing site could be the difference over you getting that coveted number 1 spot over your competitor. Through doing an extensive SEO and technical performance review you can understand what your current situation is and where improvements can be made, whilst also giving you a bench mark for future reviews.

How often should you do an SEO and Technical review?

As it can take months before you see the true impact of SEO work, it is advised to do a more in-depth SEO performance review on a quarterly basis. Once a month you should be reviewing the website performance metrics to understand what is working, what is not working and if the site is hitting its targets. If you are into detail and would like to know how the site is performing on a more regular basis, then you could choose 4-5 key performance metrics to monitor on a daily or weekly basis.

No. 4: Backlinks Profile Review and Management

BacklinksOnce upon a time, backlinks were a great way to get websites to rank well, and it was simple: get lots of backlinks and don’t worry about the quality. Things have changed, in fact it is now the complete opposite, it’s all about quality over quantity. So it’s now even more important to understand your backlink profile, so that you can remove any harmful toxic links and optimise the good ones.
To start, an in-depth backlink review needs to be conducted to identify positive backlinks that are optimised, positive backlinks that need optimisation and negative backlinks that need disavowing as this dictates the next steps that are taken. From the review a plan of attack needs to be created that covers optimising the positive links, disavowing the negative links and gaining new backlinks.

How often should you check backlinks?

Monthly - Once the plan is created, it is advised that you spend time monthly working towards the plan. The prioritise will depend on the findings from the review but you should always start with disavowing the negative, then optimising the positive that need it and then work on creating new ones.
Every 6 months or so - it is advised that another review of the website backlink profile is conducted to ensure that things are heading in the right direction and to identify any new links that need attention.
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No. 5: Google Search Listings Review

Google search reviewJust a quick review of the what Google displays in search results to ensure it is delivering the right message and user journey can do wonders for the success of your website. Making sure your webpages rank for the right keywords, have the right meta title and description, whilst also delivering the expected user journey, is paramount for success and the only way to do that is to review your search listings.

How often should you check on Google search results?

The more often you check on how your business looks in Google’s search results the better, but we can’t just spend all our time on Google, so we recommend checking every quarter at least. When doing the review, make a note of the keywords you search, your position and the improvements you want to make. This can then be fed into your SEO plans and be used to monitor your progress.

No. 6: User Journey/Experience Review

This is such an obvious one but also one that is often forgotten. Reviewing the journey and experience your website delivers is actually really simple to do. Just put yourself in your customer’s position and mindset, and then think about what their end goal is. It could be to make a purchase, complete a form, contact you or a mixture. Next, start from conducting a search in Google and finish with the end goal to see how the journey feels. Do this with different end goals, such as making a purchase, getting information, contacting the company, etc, and with different entry points and routes, as this will help you identify any issues and breakdowns in the user journey.
As you do this you will also get a sense of the experience your site delivers, and you will quickly identify the areas that need improving. Just remember, you want to fulfil that need or requirement in the simplest, smoothest and most convenient way possible. If things feel complicated, broken or take too long for you, who knows the site inside and out, then imagine what it would be like for a first-time visitor.

How often should you review your user journey/experience?

This should be done every quarter, at least, but try to find other people within the business to help, something that feels simple, smooth and convenient to you may actually be the opposite to someone else so getting another opinion really helps. Also try to find some people who fit your target demographics and get them to do it, getting feedback from the people who you are targeting will give you invaluable insight into what needs improving on your website.

No. 7: Online Competitor Analysis

One of the things we love about the internet is that it gives small companies the chance to take on the big boys just by having a decent website. It’s amazing that a one-man band operation can outrank a big, industry leading business. It’s simple really, Google doesn’t care how big you are in the real world, they don’t care that you have been in business for 50 years and employ thousands of people, what they care about is which website is going to fulfil the needs of the user the most, the quickest, the easiest. And that is why competitor analysis is key.
Want that number one spot on Google’s search results? Then your website needs to fulfil the user’s requirement better than your competitors. And the only way to know what they are doing, how and what you need to do to beat them is by getting to know their website and digital eco-system. Obviously, check out their website in depth but also sign up to their mailing list, follow them on social media, sign up for their free demo, basically, take any chance you can to see how they are interacting with the industry and what they are saying. But please keep in mind a quote from the Alibaba Group’s founder and China’s richest man, Jack Ma, who said ‘You should learn from your competitor but never copy. Copy and you die’.

How often should you be looking at your competitors?

At least a few times a year, if not more often, visit your main competitors’ websites to see what they have been doing, the additions and changes to their sites. Try to keep up on their other marketing activities on a more regular basis and that is easily done through signing up to their mailing list for example. Keep an eye on any newcomers as well, as today’s newcomer could have a new approach that could make them the big player tomorrow.  

No. 8: Sitemap Audit

Sitemaps are vital for good SEO as they tell Google what pages the site has, whilst also making it easier to identify new pages that have been added to the site. Unfortunately, from time to time they can become outdated/incorrect, so it is worth reviewing them to ensure they are up to date. If you do find anything wrong, then it is highly recommended that you fix the sitemap and then resubmit to Google through your Search Console account. 

How often should you review your sitemap?

Every three to four months is ideal, however, we also recommend doing it after any big updates to the site and especially if you add, move or delete multiple pages in a short time. This will not only help ensure that all of your website is indexed by Google but it will also encourage Google to recrawl your website quicker than they would naturally.

Not sure where to begin? Want some guidance? Or want to give things a good push start?

Let us help, and it all starts with a simple conversation so contact us when you are ready.

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