As you turn the calendar to 2015, it is time once again to revisit the SEO successes or unmet challenges from the previous year and set priorities for what must get done during this year. Setting priorities for SEO is difficult. SEO is fast-moving, constantly changing and highly tactical marketing. There is always the temptation to chase the changes in search algorithms and ranking factors, for these changes require tactical solutions. It is easy to focus so intently on tactics to meet these immediate changes in the search that the overarching goals can get lost in the details, deep in the weeds. Good tactical execution done without real strategies and clearly set priorities is like driving fast with no directions or destination.
Here are three things to consider as you go about setting your SEO strategies and priorities for 2015. How have your customers changed in their use of search? What are your business goals for 2015? Are you looking to grow, introduce new products or services, or regain lost business or traction in your industry? Does your site reflect your business? Does it offer anything of value to the customer or is it a static billboard or catalog? How and when will you be changing it? Finally, look at your SEO program and set the goals and priorities.
What About the Consumer?
There is a clear trend toward consumers using mobile devices for their search. Are you ahead or behind your customers? Review your analytics and consider what devices your customers are using. If you have not seen a clear uptake in mobile, don’t simply rationalize that your customers are different and haven’t moved to mobile yet. If your mobile traffic is not growing in relation to other Web devices, you may be losing ground already.
Another clear trend is that consumers are using social media to vet businesses and products. Social media today are clearly interlinked with search results. In setting 2015 priorities, you must look at how consumers are using social media relative to your business. Also, don’t forget to look at which social media sites are their favorites.
Are Your Business Goals Realistic?
If your business is growing, you will need to look at where online growth will come as you move to set your 2015 search directions. Do you expect huge growth from search? If so, you will need to look long and hard at how you will make this happen. Be reasonable in your expectations. In short, curb your optimism. Ground it in real numbers. It is not sensible to expect huge growth from search in a vacuum. Branding is ever more important element in search, so if your brand is weak, so too will be your ability to generate new traffic from search.
If you are introducing new products or adding a new line of business, you will need to make sure that you marketing program supports the product launch in all of the media that search influences. I am constantly surprised at businesses that simply add a page to their existing site and expect traffic. This may have once worked, but it does not work now.
Visit Your Site With Fresh Eyes
Come to your site as if you are a new customer. Do a search for your own products and follow the path. You may be surprised at what you discover. Does your site show up for the keyword searches that best describe your business? Did you turn up an outdated page as the key result of your search? On visiting the site from a search, did you easily find what you wanted? These answers may help set your direction.
Content is key for search success, and customers coming to your site will be looking for content that answers their search quest. Does your content fill the bill? One of my favorite exercises is to pull content from key pages and replace the name with “our company” and replace product and service offerings with “this product/service.” Then look and see if there is anything that can be learned about either the company or the product from the page. This is a quick way to find just how generic your content is. For small businesses, you can frequently trade in a different type of business. For example on the About Us page for an accounting firm swap in veterinarian for accountant and see if the page still makes sense. If it does, the page is virtually worthless for search since it offers nothing of real value.
Based on this high level review, you will be able to set your directions without getting lost in the tactics. You may discover that your first priority is to make the site more mobile friendly. You may also discover that without the addition of more and better content, being mobile friendly is not going to be as important as developing more content, and so it goes. Once the direction is set, you can relatively easily set the priorities and fit together the essential tactics.