Whether you work in-house representing various stakeholders or on the agency side working with a handful of clients, arguably the hardest part of your day is prioritization. And it isn't just one thing.
On any given day, we're prioritizing keywords, tactics, outreach, clients, meetings, and even metrics. And then we prioritize those buckets against each other.
It's exhausting. But if you don't do it, you're doomed.
Especially today, where in most organizations SEOs don't "own" any one part of business but touch everything, and where SEOs are experts in dozens of tactics rather than specialists in one area, prioritization can be a game changer. The most successful SEOs – the ones who get the most links, garner the most traffic, and reap the benefits from algorithm updates – are the ones who've mastered it.
1. Define Your Goals
When you're thinking through what you want to accomplish, focus on business goals rather than SEO goals. For example, instead of focusing on the keyword with the highest average search volume, focus on your best-selling product or service (or the one with the highest profit margin). An incremental increase to the latter will bring a greater business impact than a larger increase from the former.
- Bad Goal: Increase ranking and organic traffic for "sofas"
- Good Goal: See 15 percent increase in sales for "leather sectional sofas"
- Bad Goal: Increase thought leadership in industry
- Good Goal: Bring 25 percent increase in page views and 10 percent increase in subscriptions to our blog
Remember: A goal must contain a qualitative aspect so you can properly measure it, report on it, and determine if you achieved it.
2. Audit Your Site
Once you know what you want your site to do, determine where you're at in making that happen. What, if any, optimization has already been done? What areas need to be improved? Where are you currently ranked for relevant keywords? Which competitors are outranking you and what are they doing? Moz has a great step-by-step guide on how to do a site audit for your reference.
Prioritization will also need to happen within the audit itself. When you're determining what to change and when, think through four things:
- How much time and resources will this change take?
- How much impact will this change have for SEO? For the overall business?
- How long will it take to see that impact?
- Can I, or someone on the team, actually make this change?
The last one is the kicker: There's no use in thinking through a solution to a problem if you can't change the problem in the first place. This will really only come into place in enterprise companies or for issues relating to overall architecture and technology of your site.
3. Implement on a Small Scale: Test, Rinse, Repeat
While prioritization may be the hardest part of any SEO's job, the most frustrating thing is that we honestly don't know for sure what the results will be. Sure, we can hypothesize and run predictive modeling based on best practices and past experience, but the fact of the matter is that we have no idea what search engines really pay attention or how long it will take to see the fruits of labor.
Instead of making drastic changes to every part of your site, implement these changes on a small scale. Maybe that's changing some title tags. Or implementing rel=canonical instead of 301s on a section of your sitemap.
Test it against the original, and if it works, then roll it out to other sections. If it doesn't, diagnose the problem, determine why, and test again. This is especially beneficial if you're working on huge websites with thousands of URLs.
What are other ways you can help prioritize your SEO?