When was the last time you started a new SEO campaign? New projects are often exciting, but there’s one thing many SEOs don’t look forward to. The mismatch between expectations and actual progress of many search campaigns.
Even when clients are well informed about the long-term nature of most search strategies, secretly they hope this new agency will beat its own forecasts.
This creates a gap between expectations and reality:
Managing expectations is crucial, but smart SEOs have learned how to bridge that gap in a different way. How? By having a list of quick wins that can be used early on in the campaign.
We asked 31 experienced SEOs about quick wins they like to use at the start of a new campaign. This is what they said.
1. Reclaim link equity
“What I love to do, aside from the obvious title tags, meta descriptions, and page content, is to look at 404 Not Found pages that have inbound links.
I do this by using a tool like MajesticSEO to get a list of all the pages on the client site that have one or more incoming links, and then crawling this list with a tool like Screaming Frog. Then you can see which of those pages with inbound links serves a 404 error message, and you’ll of course want to 301-redirect those to the most relevant working page. A fast and easy way to reclaim some lost link juice.”
2. Guest blogging… with a twist
“Quick wins in SEO are hard to come by. Especially when they’re actually not too good to be true. Having said that, I have a few up my sleeve for the start of each campaign to get things going.
One in particular that isn’t so much of a quick win, but it certainly gives you a ton more bang for your buck, is through guest blogging on websites that get heavily syndicated. When I’m looking to raise the ratio of links vs. linking root domains, I always look at publishing content on websites that get their content syndicated across a few other domains so that I can cash in on a few branded links from a number of different domains. Perfect for a new domain, but just make sure you’re sticking to branded links.
One example in the SEO industry is Moz. Whenever I publish a post to Moz, I always get a ton of links from blogs that republish their content, which is great.”
3. Activate social: ask for feedback
“My favourite quick win for any SEO campaign is to ask for feedback.
If there’s a new site, ask what users think, and socialize the question, asking people to retweet it. If there’s a redesign, the same thing applies.
If nothing’s really new but you’re starting something, just ask people a question about something that will enable them to socialize your site and get eyes on it.
- Ask if they think it’s time for a redesign.
- Ask if the site looks OK for people all over the world.
- Ask if it’s slow on a mobile device.
This is all assuming that part of your SEO campaign will involve social, of course (and hopefully it does) so it’s a great way to start getting more attention for the site.”
4. Boost pages that are close to ranking
“The best quick win is definitely internal linking. First, identify pages that are ranking on the bottom of the first page or on the second or third page. Then go to pages on your site that are authoritative and build internal links to those pages. If you can’t build links directly to those pages, make sure they they’re only 2-3 “clicks” away from your homepage.
Also remove any internal links coming FROM the pages you want to rank to pages that already have authority. Remember: you want authority to flow FROM your authoritative pages TO the pages you actually want to rank.”
5. Track down duplication issues
“My favourite checks at the start of the campaign are of the index and GWT.
1. I do the usual site: search – look for unusual patterns or anything that stands out
2. I then try to add a slash to the end of the URL or remove to see what happens
3. Similarly I check for canonical links
4. And then remove or add the www – and see what happens to these canonical links – often they get updated
5. I’ll have a look at the errors in GWT and validate these checking the code myself
6. I’ll also take a quick look at the sitemap and see how old it is – and manually paste in a few URLs to see if they redirect – this could mean a very out of date sitemap
This usually comes out either really clean – or I uncover big areas of content duplication which can mean quick wins.”
6. Make sure you’re not working on a penalized site
“I’ve seen a number of business owners whose websites were never able to rank because right from the start they were dealing with penalty issues or problems with the Panda algorithm. If you have purchased a new domain, be sure to check Webmaster Tools for manual actions to make sure that the previous owner of the domain didn’t get the site penalized. When you launch, be sure that your site doesn’t have Panda issues. Here are a couple of things to look for:
- How much of your site contains content that is copied from elsewhere? Make sure that you have unique text on your homepage and don’t use the same blurb that you have used in all of your local citations and other mentions of your business. If you are using content that is found on other sites of yours then use a canonical tag to tell Google which copy to index. Or, if you are using content that is found on other people’s sites then noindex it. If Google sees that the majority of your site is duplicate content this can be an indication of low quality in the eyes of Panda. For example, a lot of veterinary sites will have hundreds of articles on the site that are provided by a third party. Those articles exist on hundreds of other veterinarian’s sites. They need to be noindexed or else Google will see that the majority of your website is copied and this can cause Panda to lose trust in your entire site.
- Do you have thin pages on the site? An example would be a templated page that is the same for each one of hundreds of cities that you service with only a few words on each page that are unique. Those need to be either noindexed or a canonical tag should be used. Similarly, if you have an e-commerce site, be sure that you are not trying to get duplicate pages in the index. Google doesn’t need to index every size and color variation of every product.”
7. Prioritize keywords by opportunity
“If it’s an existing site, looking for decent volume keywords with page 1 rankings at #2-6 that would be easy to improve upon. That will produce the fastest uptick for clients. This can be easily done by combining normal ranking data with keyword volume data, or tools like Moz Analytics make it easy to do this as well.
If it’s a new site, there are no enormous quick wins. Start chipping away at content production and make sure you’re not making any early technical mistakes. You should heavily consider a paid search or social budget to move the needle faster early on.”
8. Fix coding issues and navigation
“For many sites, the biggest gains can be made simply by fixing poorly constructed site architecture. Coding issues are often the biggest stumbling block keeping pages from getting indexed properly in the search engines. While search engines continue to get better at working around bad code, workarounds are never optimal. Whenever you can create a true fix to bad coding issues you give yourself greater opportunity to not only get your pages indexed but having the search engines apply the greatest value to each page possible.
These quick wins can often come in the form of proper heading and text hierarchy, fixing broken and redirecting links, speeding page load speeds, and using keywords in your URL hierarchy.
While not necessarily quick, another big win, also tied to architecture is the site’s navigation. Creating a streamlined, intuitive and user-friendly navigation goes along way toward helping the search engines understand the importance and value of key pages of your site. And making the navigation work for visitors is a smart usability play.”
9. Check you haven’t shot yourself in the foot
“While each site is different, and there are varying levels of complexity associated with audits, I have a few things that I always check that can provide quick wins right off the bat. They are to review:
- The robots.txt file
- Meta robots commands
- OSE Top Pages report
I always start by reviewing the robots.txt file. I make sure that we’re not blocking bots from accessing important parts of the site. It happens more than you’d think and it’s an easy fix with big implications. If content isn’t accessible to search engines, there’s almost no way it will rank, unless you’re a government entity and there are a ton of links pointing to your blocked pages.
I then do a crawl of the site using Screaming Frog where I’ll look for pages with the meta robots noindex/nofollow commands where they shouldn’t be. It isn’t surprising to find a noindex command accidentally carried over from a dev environment. Similar to the previous accessibility issue, if you’re telling search engines to not index your page, you’re going to have a hard time ranking well.
A third quick win that I like to check for is to review the top pages report on Open Site Explorer and look for pages that have external links but report an error (such as a 4xx or 302). These are pages that already have equity and value associated with them, but that equity is being abandoned on a dead URL. These URLs can be 301 redirected to key pages to make sure we don’t lose that link equity.”
10. Make a big impact with a local listing
“It’s nothing revolutionary, but my favorite quick win was always setting up a Google Places listing and getting a few key citations in place. With tools like Whitespark, nabbing citations is super quick (you can get the most important in just one afternoon) and getting a local listing up can have a tremendous short-term impact.”
11. Make improvements to high value pages
“This one is easy:
Identify organic landing pages with high revenue (or conversions) and high bounce rate. Then run A/B tests on these pages to squeeze more conversions out of them.”
12. Claim your profiles
“There’s nothing more natural than a business claiming their niche / advertising, local, and social profiles at the start of any online marketing campaign. Wedding vendors, for example, can create or claim profiles on wedding networks (The Knot, Wedding Wire, and Snapknot), local directories (Yelp, Merchant Circle, and Yellow Pages), and social networks (Facebook, Google+, and Twitter). Sure, some links from these profiles are nofollowed, but they do help boost the business’s reputation.
Local businesses are at an advantage with all of the local citations they can grab, but most non-local businesses will still be able to capitalize on niche sites, advertising sites, and social media.”
13. Fix sub-optimal pages and cull poor links
“Quickest win really depends on previous strategy, however I have found that a lot of businesses neglect engagement and are often suffering because large areas of the website just aren’t providing a good enough experience for the user. Reviewing high traffic areas of the website and looking for low engagement signals such as bounce rate and time on site, can be a great way of understanding where you’re not serving the user well. It may mean you need to re-optimise pages or completely re-purpose them, but ultimately you’re aiming to stop the user going back to Google to search again or click on another result.
Another quick win would be sites that have legacy link issues but haven’t done a good job of identifying and disavowing the bad links. A thorough manual audit can identify links that may be holding you back and applying to the disavow tool can have a very quick and positive impact on your search visibility.”
14. Evaluate a site’s health with one Google operator
“Almost invariably, the very first thing I do when considering working on any site is look at Google’s index of it through the site: operator. There’s a ton of information you can gleam in 5 minutes by looking at the the site through Google’s eyes. Most of the good information is often at the very end of the results, where Google tells you:
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 49 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
Always click to see the omitted results – this is where the good stuff lives. Plus, you can use Google’s site: operator in combination with so many other diagnostic search queries, that you can quickly and effectively capture a picture of the site’s overall heath and often come up with actionable recommendations within the first few minutes of looking at a site.”
15. Technical SEO can bring quick results
“My favourite quick wins are the technical aspects of SEO, because I can do them myself quickly. Issues like redirection, canonicalization, fixing broken links, investigating 404 errors, soft 404s, and even diagnosing problems through analytics can all be identified and fixed faster than long term content marketing efforts. I always do the technical parts first, as it serves as the foundation for any website to build upon. ”
16. A quick win link acquisition tactic
“One of my favourite “quick wins” is to identify unlinked brand mentions – sites and pages on the web that talk about your company, brand, or product(s) but don’t link to your website (I use Fresh Web Explorer for this). Reaching out to these folks and getting them to update/add those links is often one of the simplest, most powerful, quick SEO wins you can get to grow domain authority, boosting your site’s ranking potential.”
17. Improve crawlability for immediate uplift
“Indexation is one of the fastest ways of seeing immediate uplift. Most sites have a level of duplication caused by things such as search facets indexing. By adding canonicals or disallowing those pages you will create a tighter site, afford key pages more crawl time and create better hierarchy. And as Panda refreshes regularly now you can often see the results of your toil much faster than, say, waiting for Penguin.”
18. Create a checklist of high authority link opportunities
“For our clients we focus on acquiring big brand and high authority links. One might assume these will be the hardest kind to attain but if your clients are real brands there’s normally some quick wins out there.
Here’s some examples of quick wins we recently achieved at the start of new campaigns just to illustrate:
- A retail store hadn’t requested being listed as a stockist on their suppliers sites. This resulted in 20x DA:80+ links from some basic outreach on week 1.
- The UK has a government run site for each area in the country. Most of them have a regional business directory which is DA:95+. If your client has offices/stores in different regions, as one client did, there’s a .gov link for each one from a handful of quick emails.
- Unlinked brand mentions are also good if the company’s had PR in the past. Getting top end publications to link up old mentions is a bit hit and miss but when we contact journalists directly the success rate is decent for the time/return. Again we got a client a handful of DA:80+ links from a couple of emails.
There’s obviously loads more of these and it’s worth building up a checklist and process to work through each time.
I love the start of new campaigns and finding these gems which have been overlooked and sometimes you can achieve the same result from this than from a big content piece which would have taken weeks to produce, saving you or your client thousands in the process.”
19. Cooperate with competitors
“To get some quick results I advise clients to conduct a “competitive link research” or competition audit. In plain English you check out the sites that compete with your client on Google but also sites that are similar to your client. For example most businesses will face competition from the likes of:
- mainstream media
- and not to forget Google itself.
At the same time they will consider other similar business to be their competition.
You can do two things:
1. Check other small businesses ranking on top, find out where they get their links and copy the easy to get ones.
2. Then you can tell your client that these similar websites are not really their competition but their colleagues and industry peers.
Try to convince your client to cooperate with them. You think I’m nuts? Well, we do it all the time in the SEO industry. In case they are afraid to share the content or link out to their “direct competition” they can just cooperate with those slightly different than them or those a bit more distant geographically.”
20. An old quick win that still works well
“There are so many components to a successful SEO campaign as they all work in concert to help a website earn high organic positioning.
With that said, there are also a few “quick wins” that we always make sure to check-off in the early stages of a new campaign. One of my favourites is also one of the oldest quick wins, but it still works well in most niches – optimizing title tags and meta descriptions for each page of the website.
Since this is pretty much common knowledge at this point I’ll name another – optimizing for branded terms. The majority of search traffic for many websites usually comes from branded search queries. As customers become more familiar with a brand they are more likely to use those brand name variations in their search queries to find what they’re looking for.
Because of this it is increasingly more important for each website to be properly optimized for its brand phrases. Simple on-page SEO techniques like having a well-written “about” page that tells the story of a brand can be very effective. Other fundamental tactics like properly optimizing brand assets (e.g. logos, branded images, videos, etc) to help them appear in media based search results, providing simple social sharing options to generate brand mentions and optimizing for local search by using schema markup are all excellent ways to secure branded search results.”
21. Make good use of one of the most underrated pages on your site
“This depends on what stage the project is at, but I’m going to assume this would be for a new business that has done no PR or marketing. In that case, a quick win is notifying local news and related groups about the business being founded. Press people like talking about how their local community is growing, especially on the tech side. However, to make this an article worth sharing, you need a good story about the founding of the company or the CEO. Something that tugs on people’s heart strings.
The best part is, this can also be used as a starting point to write a rocking about page. One of the most underrated (but massively important) pages on any website. Having a good about page can easily double the conversion rates for people viewing that page.”
22. Get product pages (that don’t get links) to rank
“One of the most overlooked aspects I feel is internal linking. Often marketers find themselves building awesome content which attracts links and social shares. That page gets a nice boost but is it the page that makes us or the client money? Usually not. You always want to look for internal linking opportunities. It’s not natural to build links to a product page, but you can build links to an awesome piece of content that internally links to that product page. All of those social shares and links can then boost that product page in your rankings. That’s an easy win too many forget about.”
23. Authorship, link & content audits
Editors note: since Amanda shared her tip Google has stopped showing author images in search results. There are still good reasons to implement authorship markup for your content though.
“There are quite a few quick SEO wins in my opinion, and although maybe this isn’t the “best,” to me there is nothing more satisfying that setting up a Google+ profile and getting involved with authorship. Seeing your face on the articles that you wrote really makes you feel like you’re on the right path! It will take some time to go through your content and add the authorship tag as well as include the site on your Google+, but once you do you’ll start to feel very professional and even advanced. It can definitely be something that’s done fairly quickly without much thinking.
I will add, however, that although authorship is a quick win in my book, it shouldn’t necessarily be your first move. You have to go through and make sure you complete a content and link audit–getting rid of poor quality pages, fixing broken links, etc.–before putting your face on your content.”
24. A link builder’s favourite quick win
“As a link builder, reclaiming links (via 404s, brand mentions, and stolen images) is my favourite quick win.
The easiest way to look for pages on our site that received links, but are 404s, is by throwing them into Ahrefs, looking at their Top Pages, sorting by referring domains, then scanning the Page Info column for ‘404’ (use Screaming Frog for a more comprehensive report). As for brand mentions & stolen images, it’s a little more involved (outreach is needed), but they’re still classified as quick wins in my book.”
25. The problem often isn’t traffic, it’s this
“My favourite quick win for any SEO campaign is not really SEO related. SEO is a means to an end, a channel to generate leads which ultimately drive revenue. When a client asks me to help them get ranked in Google, my main concern is; how well is their website converting? In most cases people immediately think they aren’t making any sales because they don’t have enough traffic – that’s not the case. The problem is that their website doesn’t convert. And if we just focus on generating traffic, we’ll soon learn that the hard way.
So, I start off by looking at how we can optimize copy, calls to actions – even the smallest detail can have the biggest impact. We’ve seen conversion increases of over 300-600% just by changing minor elements of the design or copy. Ultimately remember that best practice only gets you so far, the rest is up to testing. And once the website is geared to convert, it’s time to focus on getting it ranked and driving traffic.”
26. Optimise your SERP listings
“My favourite quick win is enabling schema (rating, reviews, etc) and google authorship tags. I’ve done this for dozens of sites in the last 12 months and within 30 days I saw an increase of 12-15%. In most cases schema tags didn’t increase rankings rather increasing CTR by having better visibility on the SERPs.”
27. Combine keyword and landing page metrics for priceless insights
“It’s common for an SEO campaign to take a while through ideation, development, implementation, then for Google to ultimately find it and value it. Add more routine optimization on top of that, and you could be waiting months for results – either good or bad. But if you take what you already have developed and quickly optimize (the last step), you can get a nice, quick bump.
I start many new clients this way, by searching out the low-hanging fruit like vital keywords that are just out of the 6-15 position. Run keyword research and competitive reports (SEMrush is great for this), and gather up keywords and metrics like estimated searches and competition. Then run a fresh rank report including currently associated landing pages (Advanced Web Rankings is my tool of choice for this quick pull). Also get landing page metrics like traffic, revenue, and backlink information to give you more insight into the page value (analytics and a tool I’ve been using lately, URL Profiler, is very good for this as well).
Next, filter out any term that’s not in the 6-15 position, review all the data, and make a judgement on what keywords and pages to focus on. Sometimes a simple content tweak or title tag update is enough to push you into the “top 5” for a lot more qualified traffic. Total estimated time if you’re drinking a lot of coffee: 1-2 hours.”
28. Easy link recovery & improving SERP CTR
“My favourite quick wins are:
1. Using Google Webmaster Tools, find broken inbound links from authoritative website pages and 301 re-direct them to on-topic, relevant and popular website pages.
2. Use keyword research to find popular, semantically-related keyword phrases and use Screaming Frog spider to optimise Meta Titles & Descriptions (within character parameters for desktop, mobile and tablet) on the most viewed website pages that, don’t have high organic landing page visit quantities.
3. Set up personal and Google+ Local Business pages, and:
a) Add links to all online social profiles, especially Google+, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest
b) Add domain link to “Contributor To” section
c) Add out-bound link to company website link (for Google+ personal account) and main company website pages (for Google+ Local Business account)
4. Using analytics find the most popular blog posts (page-views) and add Google+ Authorship onto them. “Fetch as Google” on Webmaster Tools and post links (with post descriptions) onto Google+. Indexation takes 20 minutes and (depending on niche) the posts can show up on the first page of SERPs with a face providing higher click-throughs even if they’re ranked 6th. Editors note: while Google has recently stopped showing author images in search results, authorship is still worth looking into.
5. Write Meta Descriptions that include the companies’ phone number, with a “Call Now” or “Call Today” call to action.”
29. Find and redirect 404 errors
“My favourite “quick win” is hunting for 404s and redirecting them.
I took on a client a few months ago who had never redirected a link on his site, but regularly tinkered with page URLs (changing them slightly, not realising the consequences) and also often removed pages. He had about 100 404s to start with. It took some time, but we redirected all of them to their closest counterpart. Not long afterwards, there was a considerable jump in the rankings, especially for pages where we had redirected multiple URLs to them. Aside from SEO, it would’ve majorly improved his site’s usability and user experience too, as I’m sure many visitors had previously been landing on these 404 pages and finding it very frustrating.”
30. Create unique product descriptions
“When working with large ecommerce sites that sell branded products it is not uncommon to find that a large number of sites share the same product descriptions. In many cases this is a result of websites using the manufacturer’s descriptions or feeding product information to marketplace sites.
If you are working on a mammoth website with thousands of products it can seem like an impossible task to create a unique description for each product that you sell and an even more impossible task to convince your client or manager to give you the budget for it. However, the benefits are massive and many times sites with very low authority can often gain higher rankings than more authoritative websites just by having unique content.
If you publish product content to multiple marketplace sites it is also best to have a unique description that is used only on your main site and separate content that gets pushed to third party sites.
When it comes to local SEO my favourite quick win is making sure that the Google Places for Business listing is claimed, accurate and contains lots of rich content. Once your business listing is up to scratch you can then get results extremely fast by gaining a few good links and mentions (name, address and phone number) on a small handful of local news websites or blogs so for that reason I try to find local influencers using tools such as Followerwonk.
To get bloggers to visit your local business it is important to offer them an incentive to do so such as allowing them to try your service for free if they agree to write about it. When it comes to journalists it can be a little trickier, but if you can find a story about the business with a good angle, you can achieve results extremely quickly indeed.”
31. Make good use of existing web assets
“One of the easiest quick wins I do at the start of every campaign is to find out if the client has any alternative or legacy domains that they own. A lot of the time if a client has re-branded or consolidated their website from multiple domains or even built microsites for individual campaigns that are no longer managed, there will be ranking signals associated with those legacy domains that can be valuable for our SEO efforts.
Auditing any previous web assets and providing recommendations for redirecting or otherwise consolidating those relevancy signals is a quick, easy way to accomplish something tangible while you’re doing your initial keyword research and other preliminary strategy development.”
There you go!
The response we received from contributors was fantastic! A huge thanks to everyone who took part and shared a “quick win” tip:
- Barry Adams — Reclaim link equity
- Matthew Barby — Guest blogging… with a twist
- Julie Joyce — Activate social: ask for feedback
- Brian Dean — Boost pages that are close to ranking
- Krystian Szastok — Track down duplication issues
- Marie Haynes — Make sure you’re not working on a penalized site
- Kane Jamison — Prioritize keywords by opportunity
- Stoney G deGeyter — Fix coding issues and navigation
- Geoff Kenyon — Check you haven’t shot yourself in the foot
- Joel Klettke — Make a big impact with a local listing
- Annie Cushing — Make improvements to high value pages
- Kristi Hines — Claim your profiles
- Tim Grice — Fix sub-optimal pages and cull poor links
- Cyrus Shepard — Evaluate a site’s health with one Google operator
- Harris Schachter — Technical SEO can bring quick results
- Rand Fishkin — A quick win link acquisition tactic
- Simon Penson — Improve crawlability for immediate uplift
- Chris Gilchrist — Create a checklist of high authority link opportunities
- Tad Szewczyk — Cooperate with competitors
- Vinny La Barbera — An old quick win that still works well
- Peter Attia — Make good use of one of the most underrated pages on your site
- Brandon Hassler — Get product pages (that don’t get links) to rank
- Amanda DiSilvestro — Authorship, link & content audits
- Jonathan Cooper — A link builder’s favourite quick win
- Adam Connell — The problem often isn’t traffic, it’s this
- Sujan Patel — Optimise your SERP listings
- Bill Sebald — Combine keyword and landing page metrics for priceless insights
- Tony Dimmock — Easy link recovery & improving SERP CTR
- Steve Morgan — Find and redirect 404 errors
- Gordon Campbell — Create unique product descriptions
- Brett Snyder — Make good use of existing web assets
What Do You Think?
What quick wins do you like to use to kick-off an SEO campaign? We’d love to see your ideas in the comments below.