When it comes to site maintenance, every strategist has their own checklist. The real question is how often they update said checklist.
By nature, SEO professionals tend to get stuck in their own process and don’t update it or allow it to evolve along with the industry.
This is not necessarily saying that they are negligible in any way, but rather, they already use tried-and-true methods that have worked for them over time, so why change?
The truth here is that those methods and toolsets need to change from year to year to keep up with current trends and the evolving needs of users and search engines.
Outside of a small group of strategists, most don’t update their processes year to year and lose out on the opportunity to help themselves or their clients.
Regardless which side of that fence you fall on, below are some strategies and tasks you can add to your toolset to upgrade your game.
1. Indexation Analysis
Even if they crawl them, it doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to be presented in the SERPs, which you can easily see in the new Search Console’s index coverage report.
In a way, Google is sculpting our sites and trying to figure out how best to use your crawl budget for you, which rarely works out in the favor the SEO strategist.
The most common types of pages that don’t make the cut are low-quality pages such as:
- Search result pages.
- Faceted pages.
- Pages with templated content.
- Pages with thin content.
- Pages with dynamically-generated content.
- Pages with broken elements such as schema, canonicals, etc.
- And so on, and so forth.
You get the idea.
Basically, any page that doesn’t provide a good user experience is having a harder time getting into the index.
The challenge here is knowing how to identify when you or your client has an issue in the first place. Typically you would have to do log file analysis to see when Google crawled each page.
But this commonly scares off a lot of folks as it’s more technical in nature and not everyone has or wants to take the time how to do it. Understandable, no judgments.
So the question becomes: What does the strategist who doesn’t want to go through that time-consuming process do?
Greenlane Marketing has created a great tool that allows you to check the indexation of your website URLs in a copy and paste method, and it’s free to all to use. Per Greenlane’s owner Bill Sebald:
“The goal was to help webmasters help Google. Since we didn’t have a detailed view into which specific pages were actually indexed, we sometimes struggled with knowing what we should block from Google; especially on huge sites. As SEOs, we don’t want to continually waste Google’s bandwidth, and want to better highlight only our important pages. This tool helps tighten the focus on index bloat and crawl waste.”
You’ll have to give Sebald and crew your email address (which you should anyway, they’re awesome at what they do), but after that you’ll receive access to a Google Doc that has the tester in it and you just copy and paste your URLs in, and it will tell you if they are indexed or not. Analysis done.
You can access the tool here.
2. Cannibalization Analysis
For anyone who doesn’t know, cannibalization is when you have several pages on your site that are competing for the same topic, and thus, don’t allow the site to rank well for that topic because the equity is being split between those pages.
If you are you unsure if you have a cannibalization issue, look at your site and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have several pages that talk about the same thing?
- Are you having a hard time getting these pages to rank well for that topic?
- Do you have a lot of parameter or faceted pages that are indexable?
- Do you have a lot of search result pages that are indexable?
If the answer to any of these questions (or gasp, all of them) are yes, then you need to do a deeper dive into your or your client’s site to see if you are competing with yourself.
While this is understandably not the easiest task to complete, as it all depends on the quality and accuracy of your data, the goal is to take all of your ranking URLs and compare the ones that rank for shared keywords side by side to see where you are competing with yourself.
The example below shows a cannibalization analysis that was done by my company not too long ago for a company that sells cables and was having a hard time getting their product pages to rank well.
As you can see, the report clearly shows separate pages exist for every size and color for thousands of products across the site, which is causing competition internally:
Depending on what information you want or need (we added in MSV, modeled traffic, and ranking change between two time periods), this analysis can take the guesswork out of pages you think may be competing with one another, and gives you solid direction on where to focus your efforts.
3. Experimenting with New Technologies
The search landscape is a-changin’ and there are a ton of new technologies out there that are worth a look to enhance the user experience on your site.
Currently the most widely adopted and asked about technology on this list, AMP (accelerated mobile pages), is a way to build pages that load instantly when a user accesses them from their mobile device because they are pre-cached.
With Google’s mobile-first indexing initiative rolling out and speed becoming more and more important as the months peel off the calendar, this is something that everyone should explore and test out on their site.
The largest hesitation (excuse) is typically “I don’t think AMP makes sense for my site” or “I don’t have enough resources to build this out.”
While these are all well and good, if you want to move your site forward you need to test things that are new and find the resources even when you think they don’t exist (in my experience they are typically available, just rarely asked for).
If you are using WordPress, there are many plugins that automatically add AMP pages in (this one is good), so no excuses!
To learn more about it, visit the AMP project website and go build a few pages and see if works for you.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
While most folks are focused on technologies that will help them rank higher, we have seen the emergence of the importance of giving our users a great experience on our websites, whether or not that content is meant for search.
Progressive web apps are a newer technology that we have seen companies begin to adopt. They aren’t meant for search purposes, but rather, providing an app-like user experience without having to download anything.
If you want to see what that looks like, and you’re a Pokemon fan like my son is, check out the Pokedex website.
To quickly walk through what it looks like on a mobile device, below you can see an icon featuring Bulbasaur that looks very much like an app link, but it’s not.
It’s a link to the site above which when clicked on brings you to the PWA, and loads fluidly and instantly regardless of your network state because the resources are pre-cached, allowing for the instantaneous user experience.
Many big brands, including Starbucks, Apple, Microsoft, Lyft, Instagram, and Pinterest, already have PWA-enabled content.
If you are looking to level up your websites experience for your users, head to this page to learn more and see if it’s right for you.
4. Using Search Data to Inform the Rest of the Business
Unfortunately, in most organizations, search data is still siloed to being used by just search and digital teams.
Even further, most SEO teams and their data traditionally lives within online marketing, within overall marketing, and is typically considered a “nice to have” dependency.
This is what the setup looks like:
What a lot of companies are missing the boat on is using search data to inform other parts of the business by using user intent and interest to influence decision making. This is really how the setup should look like:
When you have search data at the center of your dataset, or at least a large contributor to it, you have empowered your organization to make smarter choices on everything from product names to locations on where you should open your next location based on user search demand.
For example, the following product is called a “Folding Chicken Roaster” on a popular site that sells grills and grilling accessories.
The issue here is that when we look into how many people are searching “Folding Chicken Roaster”, nothing comes up, so no one is searching for it.
The funny thing is that if you look back at the description of the product, they actually call it what it’s actually referred to by customers and the general public, a “beer can chicken holder”.
When we look into how many people are searching that, the results are much different:
While “beer can chicken holder” might not be the way the company wants to refer to a product of theirs internally, you can’t ignore that so many more people are searching for this product that way.
It’s borderline irresponsible to not call it a “beer can chicken holder” and as SEO strategists, we have the ability to bring this information to the broader organization and help them make better decisions based on the customer’s voice.
Remember, the way you refer to something within your organization is rarely the way the general population refers to it.
What If I Can’t Figure out How to Do Any of the Above?
This is the most common excuse that I hear about trying new things or changing the way that things are done within an organization.
People fear change, which is understandable, but doing things the way that they have always been done will never get your site to the next level.
You’ll never know if you can’t figure out any of the above until you try… so try.
Some analyses will yield great insights, some will yield nothing. Some technologies make sense for sites, some don’t.
Get out there and try it out and see if it works, if it doesn’t, try something else. If you keep evolving your toolset, you’ll continue to progress and grow.
More SEO Resources:
- How Search Engines Crawl & Index: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Identify & Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization to Boost Your SEO
- 5 Actionable Reports from the New Google Search Console
All screenshots taken by Patrick Reinhart, March 2018