This article focuses on three different recurring SEO tasks that are almost hassle-free for any business – at any stage in their journey – to roll out at scale.
The three recurring SEO tasks cover three main areas:
- Technical SEO
- Content SEO
- Backlink SEO
Technical SEO tasks
Technical SEO is all about working on website structures and performance with the main purpose of making your website more accessible to crawlers as well as providing a great user experience.
For many website owners, this is also where it becomes difficult to prioritise. For a recurring optimisation process, you need a strong team that can deliver on it. An optimal team structure usually consists of a mix of web developers, CMS specialists, copywriters and data analytics specialists – but even with the perfect team in place – where should you begin?
If you could do just one thing that doesn’t require an entire team, and something to execute simply, then you should prioritise internal links and redirects.
A redirect sends both search engine crawlers and users to a different URL than the one they originally requested to visit.
Why should you care about re-directs?
Redirects are a great method to explain to both search engine crawlers and users that a URL has changed its destination either permanently (301 redirects) or temporarily (302 redirects). If your URL paths change or move this is crucial, yet way too often we see that redirects end up in so-called redirect chains and loops.
A redirect chain is when your page 1 redirects to page 2 that redirects to page 3 that redirects to page 4 (you see where this is going, right?!) and a redirect loop is when page 1 redirects to page 2 that redirects to page 3 and then redirects back to page 1.
These redirects chains and loops directly impact page speed, can cause tracking issues and also have a rather negative effect on user experience.
This is bad since Google with their most recent Core Update explains how an optimal page speed and user experience is a must for website owners.
And quite frankly, missing out on actionable performance insights due to redirect tracking issues is just frustrating.
How to manage redirect chains and loops
First, you want to make sure that we avoid all redirect chains and loops by inspecting your current setup with redirects.
- This can be done either by editing your website’s .htaccessfile or if your CMS offers a direct operation solution then use this instead.
- When you are able to access and manage your redirects then you must arrange a clear path between the old page to the new page.
Second, we want to ensure that when we serve updated and relevant content based on outdated pages we must also remember the redirects.
- When you follow up on new versions of URLs, out of stock products or merge existing pages, then you want to apply a redirect from those old pages to the most relevant URL.
Finally, we want to make sure that any old URLs from which a redirect happens are no longer available for crawlers and are not indexed.
- Update all internal links pointing to the old page so that they now point to the new page.
- Remove the old URL from the sitemap.
- Inspect the new URL in Google Search Console and share it on social media to get it indexed faster.
How often should you manage your redirects?
Redirects are almost inevitable and this is an amazing opportunity to take control and make sure that you are always serving relevant and reachable URLs.
If you would like to stay current, then apply this in your monthly or quarterly optimisation roadmap. How often you need to prioritise this is entirely dependent on how often you update your website with new and relevant content.
Content SEO tasks
Content SEO focuses on serving relevant content that correlates with what users expect to find when they land on your website. And ever since Google launched their search engine result page, results they serve are optimised to match search intent with increasing accuracy.
Updating content to target these various search engine results types has been a standard methodology for SEOs, copywriters and content managers for decades.
The challenge lies within the lack of knowledge for what brings the most value for crawlers and users – where to prioritise efforts and how often? Indeed, an area that has always been of high importance, and potentially now more than ever, is in the web page’s heading tag.
Keyword optimised headings
What makes headings particularly useful is the fact that we can optimise them with a data-driven approach and utilise performance insights to our benefit.
The HTML heading tag is used to define headings of a webpage. A heading is not only visible for users but also for crawlers since it is marked up in crawler readable HTML code.
The heading structure is determined by a number between 1 and 6, where the heading 1 (<h1>example text</h1>) is the primary heading tag. Therefore, we should also regard a heading structure as a hierarchy where 1 is the primary and this is where we want to include our primary keyword(s).
Why should you optimise your heading tags?
According to Google’s John Mueller, headings are one of the most important signals to crawlers and users. Almost all CMS have a standard editing function for working with the heading tags on a website. This means that in almost all cases, you are able to manage headings without the need for any additional resources making this task so easy to tend to on a regular basis.
How should you optimise your heading tags?
There are so many ways that you can work with heading tags but we always recommend to organise through two approaches. One involves working across all pages and the other is very efficient mostly for commercial and transactional pages.
The general approach to optimising heading tags
By isolating a landing page in Google Search Console you can see exactly the keywords you’re visible for. Use these insights to identify what keywords you would like to include in your heading and also what keywords you should include in that specific URLs HTML tag.
(To strengthen this approach you must include competitor data)
The most simple approach that does not require any 3rd party insight tools is to simply conduct a search in an incognito browser on the preferred keyword. Pick the top three to five ranking results and use this as inspiration combined with the results from Google Search Console to create your new and updated keyword optimised heading.
The optimal approach to optimising headings for commercial and transactional pages
This approach functions very well for commercial and transactional pages. However, since the user intent for these pages is often rather far down the conversion funnel, including performance data from paid search is a perfect strategy.
Here’s how it works:
- Within Google Ads look at all landing pages
- Filter on those landing pages with a high CTR and conversion rate
- Now refer to the ads for these landing pages
- Isolate the ads with the best performance
- Extract the ad copy and use the headings from the ads as your on-page headings
- When should you optimise your headings?
If you have not already gone through your existing headings and optimised them as explained previously, there might already be a lot to tend to. Often we see that headings do not need changes that often once they are reflecting users search intent. However, if you create new landing pages frequently or optimise old landing pages then applying this data-driven approach is key to ensure a high level of relevance.
Backlink SEO tasks
Off-page optimisation focuses on strengthening your online reputation and earning backlinks from relevant domains. Backlinks are links provided by external domains and they can be understood as a vote of confidence from a crawler perspective.
The world of backlinks is filled with so-called black hat tactics that may seem like a smart move, but at the same time having worked with this for many, many years we have also learned that there is no real value in trying to cheat – honest work just pays better off in the end.
However, we admit, constantly creating relevant content that external domains are willing to link to is an extensive task and not to be included in our simple checklist! If you want to tackle this, you can learn more about this here.
Avoid backlinks pointing to 404s
Whenever a page is not found the server that hosts your domain responds with an HTTP 404 code – meaning that the page is not found. Just like with redirects this happens often if you are changing URLs, products go out of stock or if you are regularly deleting pages entirely.
In almost all cases you will already have a lot of backlinks pointing to your website. Assuming that you have had your website for some time, you might have backlinks that are pointing to a 404 page, and therefore, serve almost no value.
As well as referring back to the previous section on redirects, you should also watch out for incoming external links for this URL, so that you can make sure that they are moved too.
Why should you avoid have backlinks pointing to 404 pages
A backlink provides almost no value when it points to 404 pages. As well as being a bad user experience, crawlers will pick up on this, concluding that the links should not be counted as valuable. Knowing how difficult it can be to gain these links in the first place – this is just not what you want.
How should you manage your backlinks pointing to 404 pages?
In the Coverage report of Google Search Console, you can see at least all the 404 pages that Google’s Crawlers have located on your page. Extract these lists and then refer to a tool that provides a backlink checker. Many of these tools are available online for free depending on how many URLs you would like to inspect.
Once you have an overview of what domains are referring backlinks to your 404 pages, simply reach out to them and request them to change the link destination to a working page.
In this way, you are both nourishing your relation to those domains who are willing to refer links to you and also providing value for both users and crawlers through working URL paths.
When should you optimise backlinks pointing to 404 pages?
For major websites, this is a monthly task, but the rule of thumb is that whenever you are changing and updating pages you should include backlink checks as part of the process.
Including SEO in your recurring optimisation task is so important if you want to increase your performance. If you are not already doing so, these three simple SEO tasks will enable a significant improvement in quite a short time – and in the process, can provide insights that will inform both your organic and paid search activity.
To learn more about Precis, and our approach SEO activity, check out 5-part series on search 2.0 here.