The first few months of an SEO campaign can be especially tricky – there’s lots of work to be done and the most valuable strategies often involve long term investment. How can you get some quick results to show your clients you’re on the right track?
Here are a few things you can easily do to kick-start your SEO campaign in 2014. If none of these work for you, well, please slap me the next you see me.
Quick Onsite Wins
1) Basic onsite optimisation
DON’T skip this step. Simple onsite optimisation worked wonders in 2013 and will continue to in 2014 (and most likely still will in many years to come).
Many sites have HUGE holes when it comes to basic onsite optimisation. Fix these issues and often you’ll see increased rankings and organic traffic within days.
Rand Fishkin took a stab at drawing up a “Perfectly Optimized Page” – check it out:
See also Brian Dean’s comprehensive post on on-page optimisation here.
At the very least make sure your main keywords have dedicated pages and are being used in some form:
- in the page title
- in one or more page headings
- in a natural way in the copy
Some seem to think this is “old school SEO” and it doesn’t work. Dead wrong.
2) Add more copy to key pages
Beef up pages that are targeting important keywords and are low on copy. Add text that contains related keywords and synonyms but avoid redundancy.
A clever (and relatively cheap) way of finding topically relevant keywords is using nTopic.
Run your content and target keywords through the nTopic Writer to find how topically relevant your current text is. The tool will give you suggestions of keywords that you could add to improve the content. The suggestions go beyond synonyms or long-tail forms of your main keyword.
Focus on related words suggested by nTopic that are not used in your text. Use them as a starting point for expanding your text.
3) Fix spammy titles
You’d think these don’t exist any more. They do. On some sites abundantly. Spammy titles can seriously hurt an otherwise well optimised site.
Common culprits to look out for:
- keyword chains
If you need more than two punctuation marks or special characters (pipes, commas and all sorts of dashes count) to separate phrases in your title, you probably need to rethink it.
- keyword-rich phrases that are appended to the title site-wide
If the exact same set of keywords is found appended to the title of each page of your site, Google will most likely ignore the repeated text.
- words repeated multiple times
Keep using the same keyword over and over in your title and you’ll be labelled a spammer. A good rule of thumb is to use a singular word at most twice and a multi-word phrase once in a single title tag.
4) Reduce commercial keyword occurrences
For many years now Google has been suppressing in search results pages that are “trying too hard”.
Track down pages that are too packed with keywords and fix them. What is acceptable will depend on content length and context, but in most cases using a keyword a few times is plenty enough.
Cut down the number of commercial keyword occurrences and there’s a good chance you’ll see rankings go up.
Tip: Use Chrome’s CTRL+F short-cut to quickly find and count occurrences of keywords on a page:
5) Find and remove useless pages
Don’t let Google crawl more URLs than it needs to. Scan the site with a tool like Xenu, Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl. Is crawl budget being wasted on duplicate URLs, archive pages or pages with no content?
Use a combination of canonical, noindex, prev/next tags and robots.txt directives to reduce the number of unnecessarily crawled or indexed pages.
Here’s a shortlist of pages you usually don’t need indexed:
a) tag and category pages
b) archive pages
c) pages which only serve as a place holder for an image
d) pages with no content
e) pages with internally duplicate content
A poor site structure can result in indexation issues and Panda problems.
6) Improve SERP CTR for top pages in GWT
This is one of my favourites because it’s basically free traffic.
A. Go to the top pages report in Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) and find keywords you’re already ranking for that don’t have great click-through rates (CTR).
B. Google phrases with low CTR and evaluate competing listings.
- Is it clear from the search snippet alone that your page is a good match for the searched phrase?
- What could you change to improve it?
- How do your titles and META descriptions compare with other results on the first page?
- Would you visit your own site if you were searching?
C. Make improvements to your page title and meta descriptions. Focus on convincing searchers that your page is extremely relevant for the currently under-performing search query.
7) Use rich snippets
Google has been cutting back on how many rich snippets are displayed BUT setting them up is easy and gives you a shot at a more attractive listing.
There’s quite a few to choose from, but here are two easy ones to start with:
Google Authorship – for blog posts and other editorial content.
Here’s a quick guide on how to do it.
Ratings – for pages featuring products or businesses with existing reviews.
Dan Butler from SEO Gadget has published probably the best overview of generating rich snippets out there.
Quick Link Building Wins
8) Find unlinked brand mentions
Before you start going deep into content-based outreach strategies look out for existing unlinked brand mentions. Find places where the website, company, employees or branded product have been mentioned online and should have been linked to but haven’t.
- “brand” -site.com -press -release
- “product” -site.com -press -release
- “website name” -site.com -press -release
- “employee name” -site.com -press -release
For another way of finding unlinked brand mentions at scale check out this great guide by John Henry Scherck.
9) Find unlinked logos
This is a spin on the above technique. If a website displays a company’s logo they probably should be linking to the company site too, right?
Use Google Image Search to find your company’s logos on other websites and find sites that aren’t linking back.
- existing and past sponsorships
- current memberships
- partnerships, e.g. distributors, clients or partners
- past and upcoming events, e.g. expos or conferences
Capitalize on all these existing relationships before you reach out for new ones.
10) Find links to broken pages and redirect them
Has the site you’re working on been around for a while?
There’s a large chance it has pages that disappeared but still have links pointing to them.
Use the Top Pages tool in Open Site Explorer to find pages that don’t exist any more but have links pointing to them:
Ahrefs.com has a similar Top Pages report:
Use 301 redirects to recover lost link equity.
11) Link Existing Company Social Media Profiles to Website
There’s no easier link-building out there, but it’s often overlooked especially by small and medium businesses.
At the very least check if you have these:
Site,Where’s the link,Followed?
Facebook, Profile, No
Twitter, Profile, No
Google+, Profile, Some – links in About Us text
Youtube, Profile & Video Descriptions, No
Pinterest,Profile & Image Descriptions,No
Meetup.com, Meetup Sponsor Details, Yes
Eventbrite.com,Event Organizer Details,Yes
Quick Local Wins
12) Make Sure Contact Details on the Site Match Those on Google+ Local
If the business name, address and phone number on your Google+ Local page differ from the details listed on your website, you’re shooting yourself in the foot for local rankings.
Fix this. It takes like 3 minutes.
This is just the first step to NAP consistency but an important one. Marcus Miller explains very well why NAP consistency is so important.
13) Get a review (or two)
If you have no reviews on your Google+ Local page, getting just a few (or sometimes even just one) can give your listing a visible boost. This is especially true if your competitors don’t have a lot of reviews themselves. Just do a Google search for a few local keywords and if you see something like below, you’re on to something.
Talk to the business owner or sales staff about giving happy customers a nudge to leave a review. Andrew Shotland has some great tips on how to help reviews happen.
That’s it. 13 things I like to quickly fix when starting work on a new site. If you have a quick-win tactic you like to use again and again – share it below.