Steven van Vessum joins the podcast to share his thoughts on why getting the SEO priorities right first matters more than you might think:
Where to start when prioritizing the full spectrum of SEO tasks
What prevents people from properly prioritizing their SEO efforts
Creating buy-in for proper SEO prioritization
There's this long-standing debate in the SEO industry about what matters more. Is it content? Is it links? Is it technical optimization? In this episode, we offer a different approach. Instead of weighing what's more important as an absolute, why not consider what's important to the site, right now?
Here's a summary of what we talked about.
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Getting Your SEO Priorities Right
One of the great things about SEO is that it's always moving. There's always something new to learn as Google and the web itself evolve. However, there's a bit of danger in getting caught up in the latest and greatest thing to hit the world of SEO. Whether it be a core update or Core Web Vitals, SEOs often find themselves getting caught in the whirlwind of the latest industry chatter and it's not always very helpful!
So, what should you focus on when doing SEO?
Start With What Moves the SEO Needle the Most
While things like Core Web Vitals are very important they are not what will necessarily move the needle for your site. Core Web Vitals is specific is more of a tie-breaker scenario (though for certain types of keywords that tie-breaker may be more common than you think).
Before you get into optimizing for specific elements of the algorithm it behooves you to make sure your site is healthy first. Meaning, get the core of your "technical optimization" down first so that your site is healthy enough for search engines to crawl, index, and eventually rank.
To this, ensure that you've properly set up your canonical tags or have correctly implemented your hreflang, etc.
What's the point of getting your CLS right if you've accidentally added a robots noindex tag to half your pages?
There's a balance here. Of course, putting out great content is incredibly important. It's probably the most important or fundamental thing you can be doing to help your site. It's literally the material you use to build a site. However, you need to balance that by making sure that content is crawlable!
It's all about prioritizing the right things and the right time.
Just because something isn't as "sexy" as establishing your site's E-A-T doesn't mean it's any less important. Just because something is a bit more technical doesn't mean it can't impact your site's bottom line the way that content can. Again, if all of your pages are marked noindex, how is your site going to earn revenue from Search?
The Mistake that Prevents Proper SEO Priorities
Sure, it sounds completely logical to ensure you prioritize the right SEO tasks at the right time. Yet, for some reason, that often is not what happens. But why?
As we spoke about in a previous episode of the SEO Rant, SEOs often get caught up in quick wins. If you spend enough time on SEO Twitter you'll see all sorts of charts being shared that show quick and drastic organic traffic wins. It's contagious. It's easy to get caught up in trying your best to find that "thing" that will suddenly propel your site to search engine victory!
The problem is, the reality is far less sexy. SEO is a long-term game. It's a slow game. It's implementing a core strategy and making adjustments along the way as you slowly see growth over time. Everyone starts small, it's about getting the basics right and growing from there.
It may seem like everything in SEO is always changing, and to an extent it is. But that doesn't mean the fundamentals have changed. Being on the cutting edge of SEO is great and it's really important but not at the sacrifice of getting the process right from A-Z. Being at the forefront of SEO thought can help give your site an edge and align it where Google is heading. However, that's only possible if you've set yourself up for that success by getting the core fundamentals of SEO correct.
You wouldn't worry about author bios to increase your E-A-T before you created your actual content and set up your title tags, would you? Similarly, you shouldn't worry about fine-tuning your image loading times if your canonicals are currently sending conflicting messages to Google!
Create Buy-In for Site Health
Prioritizing technical issues are a hard sell to a client (or to an internal team). The correlation between ensuring a site's health and growth (and therefore revenue) is not as immediately obvious as something like a strong content strategy.
That makes getting the buy-in you need harder.
It's really important in these cases to make sure the stakeholders understand what could potentially happen if there are serious issues with a site. Sure, you might have 50K people visiting the site through organic search each day, but if critical pages can't be crawled that number can drop to 10K very easily.
For certain verticals, this will be easier to sell to stakeholders than others. In the case of news content, you need to have your content crawled and indexed right away because what's relevant now can be completely irrelevant in just a single day. If Google can't access those sorts of pages properly you have lost out in a big way. Those traffic losses are gone, you can't get them back. That's a very big missed opportunity. It might not be that hard to get the buy-in you need in such an instance (although, it might be).
For those verticals where the consequences are not as obvious, I think it's also important to make sure you don't oversell. Everyone involved in the growth trajectory of the site thinks their work is the difference-maker. However, it's worth explaining to stakeholders that technical optimization is one part of the larger puzzle. Make it more a case of prioritizing the right things at the right time so that elements like content strategy have a chance to get off the ground.
Don't Skip SEO Steps
It's all about the right steps at the right time. We can debate which aspect of SEO is more important from now until the end of time. In truth, it's more about the timing. It's about making sure that the right things are taken care of at the right time. There's a logical progression of what the site needs. Skipping steps by getting caught up in the latest SEO news-maker is not going to help your site succeed... unless you're at the stage where focusing on that makes sense for your site.
Like most things... it's all about the timing!
For more of the SEO Rant Podcast check out our previous episode on the seeming lack of available SEO talent in today's industry.