When you launch a new site or enter the SEO game for the first time, one of the most obvious first steps is spending some quality time working on on-page optimization. But once you’ve gone through done your work, then what? How often do you optimize, or re-optimize?
The answer to that question is based a fundamental grasp of the nature of real SEO. It’s the difference between understanding that SEO is not a phase, but a lifelong mentality; a permanent filter for looking at a website through the eyes of a search engine.
SEO isn't a one-shot deal or a quick coat of paint before calling the house ready for occupation. Learning to make your website talk to search engines in the language they understand is a long term science.
When Doing a Redesign
Redesigning or relaunching a website is a pretty distinct milestone in the optimization life of a site. No matter how much work you’ve done on your site up until that point, if you’re going through a redesign, it can be like starting back at square one. Sure you have an idea of what to call your pages and how to structure your navigation. But things are going to change; content needs to be-re-reviewed. Pages need to be reconsidered and URLs may need to be redirected.
It’s not throwing everything out and starting over, but translating the work you’ve done into a redesign means careful consideration. It’s like when you change houses. You go through all the junk you’ve accumulated over the years, keep what you need, toss what you don’t, and upgrade the rest to fit your new lifestyle.
Redesign optimization is sort of the same. There’s a lot you’ll want to keep, need to keep even. But not all of it is going to mesh with the new site. There’s also a lot you’ll want to let go of to try something new. The biggest challenge is to try to make a fairly seamless relaunch that doesn’t cost you a fortune in rankings.
A redesign gives you a chance to start with something bright, shiny, and new, but only if you clean up all of the loose ends from the previous model. That means making sure all internal links are directed to pages that successfully made the move, and that you link directly to the new URLs instead of the old, re-directed URLs. If you’ve consolidated pages and combined topics, you’ll need to make sure you’ve brought over enough content and strategic targeting to make sure that you don’t leave any holes from the change.
When Adding New Content
If you’re adding new content regularly to a site, obviously you’re probably taking considerations with the new pages to set them up with all the right titles and attributes to help them rank. But new content can affect old content too.
So when you add something new, you may want to re-visit existing pages. It’s a good idea to make sure that older pages are linking to some of your newer stuff.
You may also have a new page that is wholly dedicated to a subject that you’ve only broached somewhere in the past. Now with an entire page devoted to the topic, you want to make sure that your pages aren’t competing with each other. If the new content is important you want to check that it isn’t too buried or too far from the home page.
You may also want to add new content to existing folders and areas of the site. If you add a whole ton of new content in one new place and nothing there gets any attention for months after it goes live, it can send negative messages to search engines about the quality of that content. And if your new work never gains any traction it may never serve the purpose you intended.
Adding new content wisely means integrating it into what you already have and infusing your existing site with growth. Basically the idea is to update the entire structure, instead of just adding an addition onto the house.
When Circumstances Change
There are constantly new factors in search to consider. From new updates to your own personal progress. Rankings are gained and lost; links are built and decayed every day. There’s a constant flux. So when the factors around a page or a site change that may mean tweaks to your optimization as well.
If suddenly there is a great phrase that your page has moved into the top 10 for, it may be worth reworking the whole page to continue to build on that upward momentum.
If a previously under-performing page suddenly starts showing up as a popular landing page, first look into why and how you can leverage it even further, but there may be other optimization opportunities that arise. It may be a good time to revisit the usability of that page, the brand message and where else that page links or may drive visitors.
If a piece of content gets picked up by the social media crowd, whether it’s a new piece or an older item catching a second wind, there may be ways of increasing that page’s appeal for sharing even further. The point is, new elements often mean reconsidering old decisions.
When it’s Been a While
In that vein, even if you aren't actively adding content or expanding the site, if you haven’t thought about “optimizing” your pages in a while, it’s probably time to get back on that.
If you think of on-site optimization as a punch list, you’ll have a list of pages and actions to take with those pages. You start with your high priority items and work your way through to those which seem less pressing. That’s just the nature of prioritization and plowing through a workload, right? Right.
But the thing is, with SEO, your to-do list is never really done. Even if new changes or new pages aren’t being actively added to the list, when you get to the bottom it’s usually about to time to start back at the top. That often means revisiting the pages you worked on 3 months ago, because the circumstances for that page may have changed as a result of your last round of improvements.
- Is the page performing better or worse?
- Does it rank for more?
- Is it ranking better for anything it was before?
- How are users reacting to the changes?
- When people enter on these pages are they sticking around, are they looking at more pages on the site?
- Has there been any change in impressions or clicks for this page?
All of these questions, and the answers you find, will guide you to your next course of action because optimization is never really finished.
If you haven’t touched a page or a part of the site in a little bit, it might just be a good time to go back and see what that page has been up to since you last visited. You may find that there are brand new things to consider and a whole new round of optimization is in order.
An SEO Professional’s Work is Never Done
It all comes back to an idea, a philosophy, that SEO is perpetual. Sure, this makes it hard to move on to new and exciting projects or to break ground. The good news is things can take time in SEO too.
If you actively work to tune up a page today, are you going to see the full results 3 days from now? Probably not. When it comes to processing changes, we’re often better off measuring time with a calendar than a watch. That means there is always time to explore that new linkable asset idea, or to spend some time doing some social networking.
You just have to remember that when you think you’ve done all the optimizing you can, it’s probably time to start checking the stats on the work you did a few months ago. When it comes to touching up your optimization tactics, there’s really no such thing as done, just waiting for more data.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!