If you know Moz, you know the Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’s the resource marketers the world over have used to learn SEO and get a taste for its potential and power. And while we offer a delectable buffet of guides in our content smörgåsbord, there hasn’t been one comprehensive resource to serve as a follow-up for those who’ve mastered the beginner level. That’s why we’ve developed the Professional’s Guide to SEO: a guide that will help folks take the next step, preparing them with all the baseline knowledge they need to practice SEO in a professional capacity.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing chapters and/or chapter excerpts here on the blog, with the full guide releasing at the end. Yes, we want to whet your appetite, but we’d also love to hear your feedback — if there’s something you know in your heart of hearts we should cover, get at us on Twitter (@moz) and let us know!
First up, we’re sharing a portion of our chapter on advanced SEO strategy. Brought to you by the inimitable Kavi Kardos, Moz alumni and SEO Manager at Automox, this chapter looks at getting started with a next-step strategy, tactics to implement, and resources for leveling up.
Advanced SEO Strategy
Getting started: SEO priorities & plausibility
In the beginning stages, it’s easy to audit a site and come up with long lists of pie-in-the-sky ideas for content, link building, technical, and so on. Most sites, especially those that have never been handled by an advanced SEO, need a lot of work, and the new strategist arriving on the scene often gets pulled in several directions by various teams seeking their expertise.
Prioritization of the tasks you’ll undertake and the tactics you’ll employ is a vital first step in developing an advanced SEO strategy. And it’s important to work on this step thoughtfully — ask questions, be realistic, and involve as many stakeholders as you’re able to meet with. A misstep in the prioritization stage can throw off your schedule for the whole quarter and cause important tasks to fall through the cracks.
Try a SWOT analysis
It may feel old-fashioned, but the classic SWOT analysis (identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) is a great way to frame your initial site audit because it will familiarize you with both the website itself and the competitive landscape in which it lives. As you explore both, jot down your thoughts in a Google Doc that you can return to whenever you discover something new.
Strengths: What is already working well? What high-value terms does the site already rank for? What high-authority sites already link to you? Does the site already score well in page speed and performance tests or avoid other common technical snafus?
Weaknesses: What is the site lacking? Is it difficult to navigate? Are its sitemaps and robots.txt file messy? Is the organization lacking insight because it doesn’t make use of basic reporting tools like Google Analytics? Does it have a lackluster content strategy?
Opportunities: What’s on the horizon that could be capitalized on as part of your strategy? Is there a highly valuable asset that’s already been created and is now begging for distribution? Is a tough competitor lagging behind in a certain content area?
Threats: What’s on the horizon that could be harmful to your search visibility? Is there an up-and-coming competitor with an obvious wealth of SEO resources? Is there a platform migration looming? Is the site likely to fall victim to the next algorithm update?
Being conscious of the site’s current standings, both in the SERPs and in terms of its overall health, will help you prioritize tactics based on urgency. The most dire threats should usually be addressed first, while minor weaknesses can often be moved to your “nice to have” list.
Assess the organization’s search maturity
Regardless of how urgent the need is or how simple a task seems to you, the difficulty of getting your SEO recommendations implemented will vary from organization to organization. The plausibility of executing your strategy depends largely on the organization’s search maturity, or how fully they understand and integrate SEO at all levels of the business.
The concept of search maturity was developed by Heather Physioc of VMLY&R, and her guidance on diagnosing where your organization falls along the maturity spectrum is an absolute must-read at this stage in the strategic planning process. Not only does using this model help you solidify your recommendations; it also makes it more likely that those recommendations will see the light of day because it allows you to communicate with stakeholders on their level.
How much buy-in can you expect from your department, your direct manager or client contact, and the rest of the larger team all the way up to the C-suite? If SEO has been socialized across the organization and is already a part of the company culture, you can probably expect your recommendations to be met with excitement. If not, you may experience some pushback when asking for necessary resources. At an agency, you’ll be dealing with the confines of existing SEO packages as well as the amount of time you’re expected to spend on each client each month. As an in-house SEO, you may have more autonomy but must often answer to more stakeholders and navigate more red tape.
How difficult will it be to get recommended changes implemented? If the content team has an existing calendar that tends to be jam-packed, new assets may not get slotted in as quickly as you’d like. If the web devs are slammed, working back-end fixes into their sprint cycle can be challenging.
What resources will be available for SEO? Resources come in many forms, and the most scarce of them tend to be headcount and tools. Are there writers on staff who are capable of creating best-in-class content? Does the marketing team have dedicated developers, or are the folks with access to the site’s code in a totally separate department? What tool subscriptions already exist, and how much budget is available to add to your tool kit?
Create an impact vs. effort matrix
Once you know which areas of the site need the most help the fastest, it’s time to make a list of recommended tactics and further prioritize that list by likely impact weighed against required effort, based on what you learned in the previous step.
Create a matrix like the one above, perhaps in a meeting with relevant stakeholders. The likely impact of a tactic could be small, medium, or large, and the same scale will apply to the level of effort required to complete it. Plot each planned tactic into its own cell. Your list of tactics for the quarter, the year, or whatever time frame is dictated by your organization can include granular tasks as well as larger-scale projects — just make sure you’ve broken down any bigger ideas into pieces that make sense within the plot.
Taking urgency into account, tackle the tactics that will have the highest impact and require the lowest effort first. You may also want to set in motion some more demanding, high-impact tactics at kickoff if they can be chipped away at simultaneously. Low-impact, high-effort tactics can often be reevaluated.
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