Essential SEO Spring Cleaning For Your Website
It’s Red Sox season again in Boston. That means we’re at that meteorological intersection of winter and summer: it could very well be 80 degrees or it could snow. While most other parts of the country experience a season called spring, we get a small window of opportunity to change out the clothes in our closets and do our spring cleaning. But regardless of the weather, it’s a great time to get your “SEO house” in order. A big component of that is focusing on those keywords that have the most potential to deliver the greatest results. Below are a few tips on how to do just that.
First, take a look at the keywords you’ve been actively targeting over the last year and determine whether all your hard work has paid off. Namely, have you moved keywords into positions that bring you qualified traffic?
You may have done everything necessary to optimize your site around your target keywords, but you’re still not gaining traffic or conversions because the environment for a particular keyword is highly competitive. And while moving from the tenth page of results to the third page may signal progress, it won’t bring you the traffic windfall you’re looking for. In fact, research shows that 68% of search users do not go beyond the first page of results, and 92% do not go beyond the third page.
Given that, now may be a good time to put these lackluster performers on the back burner, and instead focus on keywords that hold more immediate promise.
And which keywords are these exactly? They are the ones that are already producing good rankings for your website, but with a little boost, they could do a lot better. I like to refer to such keywords as “on the cusp.”
Once you’ve identified these words, I recommend segmenting them into three buckets. The first bucket is for keywords that achieve rankings “above the fold” on page one, or what typically accounts for position two, three, or four. The goal for these keywords is to garner position one rankings. The second bucket consists of keywords that produce rankings found “below the fold” on page one. Naturally, the goal is to have these keywords create rankings above the fold. The third bucket is for the keywords that generate rankings at the top of page two, and that you want to see move to page one.
By focusing your optimization efforts around these cusp keywords, you’ll be able to generate a greater incremental lift in traffic in a shorter period of time.
Tactics to create movement
Once you’ve sorted through your cusp keywords, it’s time to examine some tactics to create movement from one bucket to the next.
To that end, your first task is to update your meta titles and descriptions to ensure that these cusp keywords are adequately represented.
The best way to do this is to perform searches in the major engines. This will allow you to study the titles and descriptions of the websites which appear within the top 10 results. Then look for similarities among your findings. For example, do you see the keyword most often as the first word in the titles? Does the keyword tend to show up once or twice in the descriptions?
You’ll have an opportunity to revise your titles and descriptions to bring them more in line with the other sites that rank well; however, don’t just mimic what they do. Instead, get them to stand out with a title and description that provides a compelling call to action.
You should also look to see if those ranking URLs contain the targeted keyword within them. This is an important consideration given that it’s one of the strongest “on-page” variables that determine how well your page may rank. Granted, it may require a lot of work to alter your URL to include these keywords, but it’ll be well worth the effort.
Links are another area that can help push your cusp keywords forward. When was the last time you re-evaluated yours, both internal and external?
First off, let’s consider external links. You need to be mindful that search engines are continuously evaluating and altering the value they assign to links. Take the time to assess yours. When you do, you may find that some of your previous breadwinners are not so valuable anymore.
But don’t stop there. This is also a good time to reach out and re-establish these external linking relationships. In doing so, be sure to request that the anchor text of those inbound links contain the cusp keywords, and if your page or site has changed, ensure that the links point to the desired page. Ideally, you want to perform this exercise periodically so you won’t get into a situation where multiple redirects cause you to siphon off too much value from your inbound links.
In addition, as you re-assess your external links, thoroughly check your directory listings in Yahoo, Business.com, dmoz, or any niche directories where you have a presence. Do they point to the correct pages, and do the titles and descriptions include the cusp keywords? If not, you may need to request a change. Start with listings in Yahoo, as those tend to provide the greatest impact, and the turnaround time on requests is quick.
But what about your internal links, the ones on your own website? Similar to their external counterparts, it’s important to make sure the anchor text of your internal links contains those cusp keywords. And take the time to check for broken links, then fix them and make sure they point to the right pages. If a high percentage of your internal links are broken, it could cost you in the search engines. Specifically, if your site has navigational issues, a search engine will be less inclined to deliver it as a result, as the user experience won’t just reflect poorly on your site, but also on the search engine that took them there.
Overall, regardless of how you experience spring in your neck of the woods, it’s as good a time as any to get your SEO house in order. Think of it as an opportunity to prioritize and focus on those keywords that have the most potential to deliver the greatest results. Doing so could help to produce the windfall you’ve been waiting for. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put away the snow shovel and find my shorts.
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