Are you using SEO profitably? The fourth quarter is already well underway, and the holiday season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday is hard upon us. For retailers and many e-commerce merchants, this is make-it-or-break-it time. Will this be a good year or one to regret?
A successful season is really the final constellation of many interconnected tactical plans — the merchandise must be what the customer is looking for and the marketing and distribution must bring the merchandise and consumer together in a timely fashion.
SEO is by now deeply engrained in retail strategies, but the annual SEO planning process varies from site to site. As the year closes out, now is the time to review your plans. Did everything come together in a timely fashion? What changes in tactics or timing should you consider?
Don’t wait until the start of the new year, for you will already be behind. Here are some thoughts on what not to miss.
Technical Changes Must Be Done First
If your annual SEO plan is like most, it will include technical changes and enhancements that are designed to improve search and the customer experience. After 30 years (no, you did not read that wrong!) in technology, it has been my experience that technical changes almost never are completed with enough time for live shakedown cruises.
This is not necessarily the fault of the development staff. It is inherent in the complexity of the tasks. Deadlines are often slipped, or unforeseen problems arise.
With search, the problem is compounded. The plan must include adequate time to ensure that the changes were made correctly, that the site is crawled and that the technical SEO works. This is one of those times, when to go slow is to go fast.
Keywords Must Be Done Before Content
In 2018, keywords and content are the drivers of search. How often do you review your keywords? When was the last time you pruned or added to the list?
Keyword lists are dynamic and must reflect both changes in language and business focus. Some words simply fall out of use or morph to new usages:
“Cellular phone” has shifted from referring to the phone to now referencing service plans for communicating with a “cellphone.”
E-commerce sites that deal in fashion must keep a steady eye on what is coming off the runway to their site and how it is referenced by fashion mavens.
It is my preference to review keywords on an annual basis, and plan to do a thorough renovation about every two years for established sites and more often for newer sites. This should be completed in advance or in coordination with content planning.
Fresh, relevant content is today the single best driver for search. Because your keywords establish the focus and language of the site, they should also drive the content. New content should be planned to support major revenue-generating keywords. Content gaps and voids should be identified and remedied.
This represents a substantial amount of work, and it must be planned and prioritized so that it fits with the tactical plan.
Just as technical changes need to be completed with adequate time for the search engines to crawl and index your changes, the new content must also go live with adequate time for crawling and relevancy determination.
Because search is an iterative process, it is helpful to give yourself enough of a planning cushion that you can readjust, refine and enhance the content based on how the pages rank.
Did I fail to mention that part of the SEO annual planning process is determining who and how success will be measured? This must also fit into the tactical planning process. It is time to get to work on that plan. I’m not going to wait for you to begin. I’ll be working on mine immediately.