How to Prioritize SEO Tasks [+Worksheet]

“Where should a company start [with SEO]?” asked an attendee after my AMA Conference talk.

As my mind spun into a million different directions and I struggled to form complete sentences, I asked for a more specific website example. A healthy discussion ensued after more direction was provided, but these “Where do I start?” questions occur all the time in digital marketing.

SEOs especially are in a constant state of overwhelmed-ness (is that a word?), but no one likes to talk about this. It’s not comfortable to discuss the thousands of errors that came back after a recent site crawl. It’s not fun to discuss the drop in organic traffic that you can’t explain. It’s not possible to stay on top of every single news update, international change, case study, tool, etc. It’s exhausting and without a strategic plan of attack, you’ll find yourself in the weeds.

I’ve performed strategic SEO now for both clients and in-house marketing teams, and the following five methods have played a critical role in keeping my head above water.

First, I had to source this question on Twitter:

Here was some of the best feedback from true industry leaders:

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Murat made a solid distinction between working with an SMBs versus a large companies:

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This is sad, but so true (thanks, Jeff!):

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To help you get started, I put together an SEO prioritization worksheet in Google Sheets. Make yourself a copy (File > Make a copy) and go wild!:

Free SEO prioritization workflow sheet

TLDR;

  1. Agree upon & set specific goals
  2. Identify important pages for conversions
  3. Perform a site crawl to uncover technical opportunities
  4. Employ Covey’s time management grid
  5. Provide consistent benchmarks and reports

#1 Start with the end in mind

What is the end goal? You can have multiple goals (both macro and micro), but establishing a specific primary end goal is critical.

The only way to agree upon an end goal is to have a strong understanding of your client’s business. I’ve always relied on these new client questions to help me wrap my head around a new client’s business.

[Please leave a comment if you have other favorite client questions!]

This not only helps you become way more strategic in your efforts, but also shows that you care.

Fun fact: I used to use an alias to sign up for my client’s medical consultations online to see what the process was like. What automated emails did they send after someone made an appointment? What are people required to bring into a consult? What is a consult like? How does a consult make someone feel?

Clients were always disappointed when I arrived for the in-person consult, but happy that my team and I were doing our research!

Goal setting tips:

Measurable

Seems obvious, but it’s essential to stay on track and set benchmarks along the way.

Be specific

Don’t let vague marketing jargon find its way into your goals. Be specific.

Share your goals

A study performed by Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews found that writing down and sharing your goals boosts your chances of achieving them.

Have a stretch goal

“Under-promise and over-deliver” is a great rule of thumb for clients, but setting private stretch goals (nearly impossible to achieve) can actually help you achieve more. Research found that when people set specific, challenging goals it led to higher performance 90% of the time.

#2 Identify important pages for conversions

There are a couple ways you can do this in Google Analytics.

Behavior Flow is a nice visualization for common page paths which deserve your attention, but it doesn’t display specific conversion paths very well.

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It’s interesting to click on page destination goals to get a better idea of where people come into that page from and where they abandon it to:

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Reverse Goal Paths are a great way to discover which page funnels are the most successful for conversions and which could use a little more love:

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If you want to know which pages have the most last-touch assists, create a Custom Report > Flat Table > Dimension: Goal Previous Step – 1 > Metric: Goal Completions > Save

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Then you’ll see the raw data for your top last-touch pages:

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Side note: If the Marketing Services page is driving the second most assists, it’s a great idea to see where else on the site you can naturally weave in Marketing Services Page CTAs.

The idea here is to simply get an idea of which page funnels are working, which are not, and take these pages into high consideration when prioritizing SEO opportunities.

If you really want to become a conversion funnel ninja, check out this awesome Google Analytics Conversion Funnel Survival Guide by Kissmetrics.

#3 Crawl your site for issues

While many of us audit parts of a website by hand, we nearly all rely on a site crawl tool (or two) to uncover sneaky technical issues.

Some of my favorites:

I really like Moz Pro, DeepCrawl, and Raven for their automated re-crawling. I’m alerted anytime new issues arise (and they always do). Just last week, I got a Moz Pro email about these new pages that are now redirecting to a 4XX because we moved some Learning Center pages around and missed a few redirects (whoops!):

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An initial website crawl can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful. I get anxiety just thinking about a recent Moz site crawl: 54,995 pages with meta noindex, 60,995 pages without valid canonical, 41,234 without an <h1>… you get the idea. Ermahgerd!! Where do you start?!

This is where a time management grid comes in handy.

#4 Employ Covey’s time management grid

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Time management and prioritization is hard, and many of us fall into “Urgent” traps.

Putting out small, urgent SEO fires might feel effective in the short term, but you’ll often fall into productivity-killing rabbit holes. Don’t neglect the non-urgent important items!

Prioritize and set time aside for those non-urgent yet important tasks, like writing short, helpful, unique, click-enticing title tags for all primary pages.

Here’s an example of some SEO issues that fall into each of the above 4 categories:

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To help prioritize Not Urgent/Important issues for maximum effectiveness here at Moz, I’m scheduling time to address high-volume crawl errors.

Moz.com’s largest issues (highlighted by Moz Pro) are meta noindex. However, most of these are intentional.

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You also want to consider prioritizing any issues on the primary page flows that we discovered earlier. You can also sort issues by shallow crawl depth (fewer clicks from homepage, which are often primary pages to focus on):

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#5 Reporting & communication

Consistently reporting your efforts on increasing your client’s bottom line is critical for client longevity.

Develop a custom SEO reporting system that’s aligned with your client’s KPIs for every stage of your campaign. A great place to start is with a basic Google Analytics Custom Report that you can customize further for your client:

While traffic, search visibility, engagement, conversions, etc. get all of the reporting love, don’t forget about the not-so-tangible metrics. Are customers less frustrated navigating the new website? How does the new site navigation make a user feel? This type of monitoring and reporting can also be done through kickass tools like Lucky Orange or Mechanical Turk.

Lastly, reporting is really about communication and understanding people. Most of you have probably had a client who prefers a simple summary paragraph of your report, and that’s ok too.

Hopefully these tips can help you work smarter, not harder.

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Don’t miss your site’s top technical SEO opportunities:

Crawl your site with Moz Pro

Common PPC keyword mistakes (Understanding broad match vs. phrase match vs. exact match)

Google AdWords offers three major keyword match types – broad match, phrase match, and exact match.

It’s safe to say that if not you don’t know how to use each correctly, you could be wasting your PPC budget.

Choosing the right keyword match types can help you target your ads better so you get higher-quality traffic to your site. Match types are simple to understand, so it’s important to take time to learn about them before you do anything else with your PPC campaigns.

What are match types for PPC advertising?

The first question is easy: What does match type mean? In short, the match type you choose for each keyword specifies which searches Google can show your ad. Your match type determines whether a wide audience will see your ads or whether your ads will only show for a few highly targeted searchers.

Your first step is to create a keyword to track by navigating to the “keywords” tab and clicking the red “+Keywords” button, as shown below:

After clicking the red button you will be taken to a page where you can add multiple keywords, as shown below:

Once you save that keyword, you can select the keyword to change the match type. Consider the specific differences below:

Broad match

Of all the keyword match types, broad match casts the widest net. When you choose broad match for a keyword Google will show your ad to people who type in all kinds of variations of your keyword, as well as the keyword itself.

For example, let’s say your keyword is ceramic pots. If you set this keyword to broad match, your ad won’t just show up for people who type ceramic pots into the search bar. Google will also show it to people looking for blue ceramic pots, ceramic cooking pots, and cooking pot ceramic. Your ad can even show up when people type in synonyms of your keyword, like pottery cookware.

Simply click in the keyword to change the match type:

Broad match is the default match type for keywords, so if you haven’t adjusted your keywords’ match type, they’re currently set to broad match. You don’t need to use any special symbols to set a keyword to broad match, although you do need to use symbols for other match types – more on that in a minute.

It’s a good idea to use broad match keywords when you want to reach the widest audience possible. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, though, this strength could become a weakness. The impressions you get from broad match keywords aren’t very targeted, and that could mean you’re paying for clicks from people who weren’t interested in your offer to begin with.

Modified broad match

You can get around some of the downsides of broad match keywords by using a modified broad match type instead. This lets you specify which words must be in a search query for your ad to show.

If you do this, your keyword still falls under the broad match umbrella, but you have a little more control over who sees your ads. Modified broad match is a powerful tool for keeping your keywords flexible while cutting down on irrelevant traffic.

To modify a broad match keyword, place a + sign directly in front of any word that must be in a query for your ad to display. For instance, to re-use our example above, you could modify your keyword by changing it to +ceramic pots.

This tells Google not to show your ad unless “ceramic” is somewhere in the query. For instance, your ad could show up for ceramic bakeware and stockpot ceramic, but not for pottery cookware.

You can also insert a “+” before more than one word in your keyword. If you wanted your ad to show only for queries that included both the words “ceramic” and “pots,” you could modify your keyword to +ceramic +pots.

Phrase match

Phrase match lets you specify an exact phrase that must be in a searcher’s query for your ad to appear. It lets you hone in on your intended audience more than the broad match type, but isn’t as restrictive as exact match.

To set a keyword to phrase match, put quotation marks around it. This lets Google know to only show your ad to people who used your exact keyword (or close variations of it) somewhere in their query. If your phrase match keyword is “ceramic pots”, your ad can show up for the searches “heavy-duty ceramic pots” and “ceramic pot with lid” but not “ceramic cooking pots.”

Exact match

When you use an exact match keyword, your ad will show up for people who type in that exact keyword (or close variations of it) and nothing else. This match type will limit your impressions the most, so use it with caution. The impressions you do get, however, will be highly targeted, so they’ll be more valuable than the impressions you’d get from a broad match keyword.

Set a keyword to exact match by putting it in square brackets – for example, [ceramic pots]. Only people who type ceramic pots or close variations of it into the search bar will see your ad. There’s no way to turn off close variation matching in Google, so your ad will still show for people who search for ceramic pot or another very similar term.

Negative match

Negative match isn’t a keyword match type in the same way as the ones above. Rather, it lets you specify words you don’t want your ad to show for. If you know your ad won’t be relevant if a certain word is in a search query, set that word as a negative match. Google won’t show your ads to any of those searchers.

For instance, if ceramic pot is your keyword and you’re selling cooking pots, you might want to set “vase” as a negative match. Otherwise, people looking for ceramic vases might stumble upon your site and then leave right away, which only wastes your advertising dollars.

Set a word as a negative keyword by including a “-” in front of it, like this: -vase. Below shows you how to navigate to the negative keyword tab. You simply click the red button once again, and here you have a choice if you want these negative keywords to be for one campaign or your entire ad group, as you can see below:

What counts as a close variation?

We’ve mentioned a couple of times that Google automatically lumps very similar terms in with your keyword. At this point, you might be wondering what a close variation actually is. According to Google’s page on keyword matching options, close variations include all of the following:

  • Common misspellings
  • Singular versions of plural words, and vice versa
  • Acronyms
  • Abbreviations
  • Stemmings, or words that all have the same root – e.g. cook, cooking, and cooked
  • Accents

How can you make sure you’re choosing the right match type?

Now that you know what all the match types do, how should you plan your keyword strategy? Google recommends starting out with broad match keywords and then narrowing them down as appropriate. Keep an eye on your search terms report, which tells you which queries people typed in to see your ad.

If you notice that your ad is showing up for a lot of unrelated or irrelevant queries, try adding negative keywords to weed some of them out, or use more restrictive match types for your keywords.

You can find your search terms report using a variety of tools. AgencyAnalytics is one such tool that allows you to also click the keywords tab (shown below) for all of your keyword data to help create a full picture:

It’s also a good idea to vary your keyword match types. Don’t use all broad match keywords, or your ad will display for too many people who aren’t interested. Likewise, if you only use exact match, your ads might not show up often enough to get you good results.

Mix it up based on what makes sense for each keyword, and aim for a good balance between reaching a wide audience and showing your ads to the right people.

The takeaway

You can choose great PPC keywords, but if you don’t deploy them well, they won’t get you the results you want. Choosing your keyword match types is an important way to determine which searchers see your ads, and this ultimately impacts your sales.

Monitor your search terms report to see how your match types are performing, and adjust them as needed, and you just might notice a big difference in your traffic and sales.

What’s your strategy for using keyword match types? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!


Amanda DiSilvestro is a freelance digital marketing writer and editor living in San Diego, CA. You can connect with Amanda on 
Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her writing services at amandadisilvestro.com.

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How to create a kickass link-building strategy for local SEO

Link-building is a tried and tested SEO tactic, and although there are a number of dubious ways to go about it, at base developing a strong link-building strategy is a smart and very necessary way to get your site ranked above your competitors.

This is particularly true of local SEO, where a few savvy tactics for building links and relationships with other local businesses can give you a huge visibility boost in local search.

According to the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors, inbound links are the most important ranking signal.

But if you’ve run through all the usual methods of getting inbound links, what can you do to give your site – or your client’s site – a leg up in search?

At Brighton SEO last Friday, master of local SEO Greg Grifford shared some “righteous” tips for a kickass link-building strategy, in his signature flurry of slides and movie references – this time to 80s movies.

How link-building differs in local SEO

With local small businesses, said Gifford, you have to think about links in something other than pure numbers. Which is not to say that quantity doesn’t help – but it’s about the number of different sites which link to you, not the sheer number of links you have full stop.

With local SEO, all local links are relevant if they’re in the same geographical area as you. Even those crappy little church or youth group websites with a site design from the 1990s? Yes, especially those – in the world of local SEO, local relevance supersedes quality. While a link from a low-quality, low-authority website is a bad idea in all other contexts, local SEO is the one time that you can get away with it; in fact, these websites are your secret weapon.

Gifford also explained that local links are hard to reverse-engineer. If your competitors don’t understand local, they won’t see the value of these links – and even if they do, good relationships will allow you to score links that your competitors might not be able to get.

“It’s all about real-world relationships,” he said.

And once you have these relationships in place, you can get a ton of local links for less time and effort than it would take you to get a single link from a site with high domain authority.

So how should you go about building local relationships to get links? Gifford explained that there are five main ways to gain local links back to your business:

  1. Get local sponsorships
  2. Donate time or volunteer
  3. Get involved in your local community
  4. Share truly useful information
  5. Be creative in the hopes of scoring a random mention

Practical ways to get local links

These five basic ways of getting local links encompass dozens of different methods that you can use to build relationships and improve your standing in local search.

Here is just a sample of the huge list of ideas that Gifford ran through in his presentation:

Local meetups

Go to meetup.com and scout around for local meetups. A lot of local meetups don’t have a permanent location, which gives you an opportunity to offer your business as a permanent meeting venue. Or you can sponsor the event, make a small investment to buy food and drink for its members, and get a killer local link in return.

Local directories

Find local directories that are relevant to the business you’re working with. Gifford emphasized that these should not be huge, generic directories with names like “xyzdirectory.com”, but genuine local listings where you can provide useful information.

Local review sites

These are easier to get onto than bigger review websites, and with huge amounts of hyperlocal relevance.

Event sponsorships

Similar to sponsoring a local meetup, a relatively small investment can get you a great link in return. Event sponsorships will normally include your logo, but make sure that they also link back to your site.

Local blogs & newspapers

Local bloggers are hungry to find information to put on their blogs; you can donate time and information to them, and get a killer blog post and link out of the equation. The same is true of local newspapers, who are often stretched for content for their digital editions and might appreciate a tip or feature opportunity about a locally relevant business.

Local charities

Local charities are another way to get involved with the community and give back to it – plus, it’s great for your image. By the same token, you also can donate to local food banks or shelters, and be listed as a donor or sponsor on their website.

Local business associations

Much like local directories, it’s very easy to get listed by a local business association, such as a local bar dealer’s association – make sure there’s a link.

Local schools

These are great if you’re on the Board of Directors, or if your child or your client’s child is at that school. Again, getting involved in a local school is a good way to give back to the community at the same time as raising your local profile and improving your local links (both the SEO and the relationship kind).

Ethnic business directories

If you’re a member of a particular ethnic community who runs a local business, you can list your business on an ethnic business directory, which is great for grabbing the attention – and custom – of everyone in that community.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should only do this if it genuinely does apply to your business.

Gifford’s presentation contained even more ingenious ideas for local links than I’ve listed here, including local guides, art festivals and calendar pages; you can find the full list on his Slideshare of the presentation.

Gifford advises creating a spreadsheet with all your link opportunities, including what it will cost or the time it will take you. Make sure you have all of the relevant contact details, so that when it comes time to get the link, you can just go and get it. Then present that to your client, or if you’re not working on behalf of a client, to whichever individual whose buy-in you need in order to pursue a link-building strategy.

In fact, Gifford has even put together a pre-made spreadsheet ready for you to fill in, and you can download it here: bit.ly/badass-link-worksheet

Decide what links to go after, and go and get them; then, after three months, wipe the spreadsheet and repeat the process.

Some important points to bear in mind

So, now you’re all set to go out and gather a cornucopia of local links, all pointing right at your business, right? Well, here are a few points to bear in mind first.

A lot of times, the people you approach won’t know what SEO is, or even what digital is. So be careful about how you go about asking for a link; don’t mention links or SEO right off the bat. Instead, focus on the value that will be added for their customers. “This is not about the link; this is about the value that you can provide,” said Gifford.

Once again, for the people at the back: it’s about building up long-term, valuable relationships which provide benefit to you and to the local community. When it comes to local SEO, these relationships and the links that you can get will be worth more than any links from big, hefty high-domain-authority (but locally irrelevant) websites.

Or in Gifford’s words: “Forget about the big PR link shit. Go really hard after small, local links.”

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