SEO priorities for the new year
It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your SEO campaigns, but columnist David Freeman advises you to stop for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture.
With New Year’s Day still fresh in our memories, there is no better time to step back and take stock of your SEO campaigns. Look for any quick wins and identify the larger projects that will help you start the year in great shape.
Hygiene: Quick wins
These are the actions you can do tomorrow. In my view, there are two keys areas to focus on.
1. Google Search Console review
Google Search Console is often neglected, but it can be one of the best sources of information for identifying quick wins. Working through Search Console’s navigation from top to bottom, I would look for any errors or warnings. The main areas to review include:
- Structured data. Ensure there are no errors within your markup.
- HTML improvements. Revising duplicated or lengthy meta descriptions and page titles can be an easy method of increasing CTR for your existing rankings, especially if you work closely with your paid search counterparts to identify their top-performing ad copy.
- Mobile usability. Mobile traffic now represents a significant percentage of site traffic, if not the majority for many sites. As such, ensuring your sites have an optimum mobile experience should be a priority.
- Blocked resources. Complete a quick check to ensure that any resources the search engines need to render your pages are not being blocked.
- Crawl errors. Identify and resolve any 404 or soft 404 errors to ensure a strong user experience and to redirect any link authority pointing to redundant URLs.
While the above is not a comprehensive site audit, it provides an action list of easy-to-implement, quick wins (when presented with the appropriate business case rationale).
2. Content gap analysis
Staying relevant to consumer search behavior is vital at both the top and the bottom of the funnel to increase visibility across the full spectrum of search terms. A quick content gap analysis is the ideal method of focusing your attention on the easy content wins. From there, you can build a content development road map to enable you to fill the highest priority gaps throughout the first quarter of the year.
In conjunction with the quick wins, it’s important to take a fresh look at the larger projects that are on your road map and, if necessary, re-prioritize them based on what you believe you can realistically do in the first quarter of the year. These are the projects that will likely make a real difference to performance in 2017 and shouldn’t be overlooked.
While every project is unique and has its own priorities, three main areas are important to dial up the consumer-centricity of your SEO campaign.
1. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
On September 20, 2016, Google began rolling out accelerated mobile pages across the main mobile search results; this global rollout was expected to be completed by the end of 2016. In short, they are no longer restricting AMP to the Top Stories carousel. While there will be no rankings benefit from implementing the AMP framework, it provides the opportunity to offer a much faster mobile experience to consumers — and thus increased engagement and potential conversions.
Personally, I believe that the pared-back AMP experience is a good thing, but the user experience that AMP offers needs to be assessed on a site-by-site basis to ensure that it enhances the mobile experience.
This holds importance on three fronts:
- Consumers are seeking a more secure and trustworthy online experience, and HTTPS is the ideal way of delivering it. This will become even more important with Chrome now flagging insecure sites.
- HTTPS is a Google ranking factor.
- It is a prerequisite for implementing HTTP2, which will allow sites to load significantly faster than with the legacy HTTP protocol. To understand this speed increase, take a look at this video, which demonstrates in five seconds how a web page loads faster in SPDY, the HHTP/2 protocol.
The benefits may seem small, but with HTTPS being a prerequisite for HTTP2, I see real value in the page load time improvements delivered across both desktop and mobile.
3. Mobile experience
Many sites offer strong mobile experiences these days, but there is still room for improvement in terms of usability. As we move through 2017, mobile traffic is going to continue to increase, which places even more importance on delivering a great mobile experience.
In conjunction with mobile usability errors in Google Search Console, there is value in reviewing your mobile site and ensuring it delivers as strongly as possible. It is important to review your site with the eyes of a consumer and check for any pain points, including:
- Is the end-to-end site mobile-friendly?
- Are you able to access the same depth of content across devices?
- Does the navigation fit to screen size without the need to scroll?
- Are all the links big enough to allow you to click through?
- Are rich media assets slowing down page load time?
If anything is uncovered at this stage, note that it will likely be a lengthy process to make changes to the mobile site template. However, it is still absolutely worthwhile, regardless of time frame.
It is all too easy to get absorbed into the day-to-day running of your SEO campaigns and lose sight of the bigger picture. The tasks above should be prioritized to progress the wider strategy and increase performance both in the short and long term.
Periodically, it is incredibly useful to step away from the day-to-day and apply a fresh lens by going back to basics. This is especially relevant to kick-start 2017 on the best possible footing.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.