If you want to keep a car in good condition, invest in basic car maintenance. And if you want to keep a website in a good position, invest in basic SEO maintenance. Like every other complex machine, websites degrade with time if they aren’t taken care of. That includes the website’s marketability, as effective SEO relies on constant upkeep.
But what does that upkeep include? That’s the obvious question, and where we’ll start.
What ongoing SEO maintenance includes: A top-down look
The truth is, every website requires a unique, customized search engine optimization strategy to succeed. There are hundreds of factors that go into every page ranking on your website, but the vast majority of them are related to content or the page’s technical configuration. High quality content hosted on a secure, fast website is what we’re aiming for.
That’s the goal. Basic SEO maintenance is designed to further that goal across time, so pages don’t age out of relevance as competitors add better and better content to their own sites.
Here’s what a basic SEO maintenance plan may (and probably should) consist of:
- Reviewing analytics to determine which pages are performing and which ones are falling.
- Expanding on existing content silos to improve their discoverability.
- Adjusting existing content so that it better matches Google’s changing content standards (if necessary – sometimes it’s best to leave well-performing content alone).
- Building internal links between existing and new content.
- Jumping on new content or keyword opportunities as the market develops.
- Carefully experimenting with headers, title and meta descriptions to see which ones perform best.
- Regularly canvassing the site for any indexing errors.
- Maintaining a site’s information hierarchy when publishing new pages.
- Running performance checks and correcting any issues related to slow loading times.
- Adding supplemental content (videos, podcasts) to existing content pages.
- Adapting the site’s SEO strategy as search engines make changes (and they do – a lot).
If it looks like SEO is too big of a job for one person, you’ve got the right idea. As the overall quality of SEO increases across the web, site owners must adapt by optimizing more and more of their site’s elements.
But as overwhelming as digital marketing can be, there are a handful of steps that every site owner can take to improve their visibility.
1) Write at least one expert-level blog every two weeks (though one every week is better)
Some site owners create their own content and some outsource their content marketing to an outside party. In either case, every piece of content should sell your company’s expertise and knowledge in its chosen field. Google – and people – place a high priority on expertise. In fact, expertise is one of the “Es” in its E-E-A-T formula – quality guidelines that every content marketer should be familiar with.
One of the best things a business owner can do for their online visibility is to communicate this expertise as often and as thoroughly as possible. That means crafting at least one in-depth, expert-level blog or article every couple of weeks. That’s the minimum. Aiming for one a week is more effective, but that may be too ambitious for particularly busy business owners.
There are a few benefits of taking a hands-on approach with your content in this way. Again, expert-level content (spiced with relevant keywords) sends the right signals to Google and other search engines. Google has aggressively adapted its ranking algorithm in recent months to raise content standards, and well-researched, well-organized and well-written pages on complex topics are its favorite.
Another benefit is that regular writing will establish your writing voice as part of the company’s brand. This can be a critical advantage for professional services companies, where the company’s owner is often its face, as well. With time, Google and potential customers will associate your name with expertise – a great place for business owners to be.
2) Expand on your content with easy-to-create videos and podcasts
Search engines also insist on including images, videos, podcasts and other forms of content with written blogs and articles. Google insists on this because users insist on it. There’s a pattern forming here – Google wants what users want. They want a positive user experience (UX), in other words. And part of building a positive UX is by publishing a variety of content types. This captures a larger spread of users that arrive to your pages, boosting those oh-so-important user metrics (like bounce rates and dwell time) that factor into those oh-so-important search results.
Setting up a video or podcast? What business owner has the time for that? Luckily, making supplemental video or audio content is simple. It also requires nothing more than a webcam, a decent microphone and video conferencing software like Zoom.
All modern video conferencing solutions can record a call with a single click. Start the call and start talking to the camera like you would as if you were explaining the topic to people in the call. It may take a little practice and some very light video editing, but once you’re comfortable with the process, it only takes a few hours to put everything together – blog, video and podcast.
Diversifying your content production reinforces the brand-building benefits that come with developing a customer-facing expert voice. If potential customers can see you, hear you and read what you think upfront, they’re more likely to trust your business. That’s another one of Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines – trust. If Google notices that users engage with and respond well to your content, they are more likely to boost your content’s rankings.
3) Integrate a proven SEO plugin into your site and get familiar with it
SEO has become more accessible over the years and there are now plugins that can assist with much of it. WordPress – which we highly recommend above all other web builders – has plenty of its own. Our favorite is Rank Math, as it allows site owners to make meaningful adjustments without being an SEO expert.
With Rank Math, users can quickly edit the titles, headers and meta descriptions of any page, or many pages at once. Users also have access to Google analytics, and can track important metrics like keyword performance or ranking histories. Users can even generate schema for targeting rich results on SERPs.
There are plenty of other plugins that can help with site building or maintenance. Elementor is our favorite page building plugin and it plays well with modern SEO methods. WP Rocket is a page speed optimization plugin that offers an array of caching and loading features. There are also several plugins developed by SEO companies (Hubspot, SEMRush, Yoast) that can help with tracking various SEO-related metrics, like keyword rankings.
SEO plugins keep SEO simple for site owners, which means digital marketing maintenance is easier and faster for the inexperienced to handle.
4) Check for any indexing errors and identify their causes
Before Google can list a page on its SERPs, it must first index that page. Put briefly, Google’s discovery process looks like this:
- The search engine sends “spiders” to any new URLs, mostly by using existing links to find them.
- The spiders “crawl” the site in an attempt to understand its content and structure.
- While crawling, the spiders will follow any links to map out the site’s navigation. If there are too many pages to fit into the site’s “crawl budget,” then the entire site will not be crawled.
- If there are no errors or anything else preventing indexing, the crawlers will index the page according to the nature of that page’s content.
It’s common – practically guaranteed – that Google’s spiders will run into at least one indexing error while crawling a website. For large e-commerce sites, don’t be surprised if there are dozens or hundreds of indexing errors. Sometimes, these errors aren’t a big enough deal to consider, but some indexing errors will make it impossible for Google to properly analyze and categorize the page. That means Google won’t make it eligible for its search results pages.
Given the stakes involved, it’s worth knowing whether there are any indexing errors burdening your site. To do that, you’ll need to check Google Search Console – which should be integrated into your site if you have a decent SEO plugin.
One of the many helpful bits of information that GSC offers is indexing status. You can find it in the “Pages” tab in the Index section of your GSC. This section lists all of your site’s pages and whether there are any indexing errors present. If there are, your GSC will identify the nature of each indexing error, so you or your SEO team can make the necessary adjustments. For example, Google Search Console can point out if a page isn’t indexed because of the following:
- A noindex or canonical tag is interfering
- Missing, moved or deleted pages
- Bad redirects
- Connection issues
- Missing server files
- Inaccurate sitemap URL listings
- Insufficient content
- Blocking due to unauthorized requests
- Server timing out during loading
There are plenty more indexing errors on top of those, but until they are identified, they cannot be addressed. Most site owners will probably need help to resolve some of these errors, but gathering information on them can speed up the maintenance process for your SEO people.
5) Track page and keyword ranking performance
Valuable insights can be distilled from all of that valuable analytical data. If site owners keep up with it, they can identify what types of content to pursue and which pages to support – in short, where the site’s user experience is strong and where it’s weak.
One way to keep an eye on your site’s general performance is to track the ranking position for your important content pages and for its important keywords. If a page is climbing up the ranking, consider it a good example for what content angles to pursue next – or at least an opportunity to double down on what you’re doing right. If a page is tumbling, that’s a sign that users aren’t interested in the content. Whether it’s an issue with the blog’s concept or its execution, knowing where the weak links are in your content chain is the first step in making adjustments.
Keyword rankings can also provide pleasant surprises in the form of new content angles. New marketing opportunities are constantly popping up across many industries, and these new opportunities sprout new keywords to optimize for. Monitoring your site’s keyword rankings is one way to remain aware of those potential opportunities as they emerge.
6) Identify and correct any content-related issues
While running an SEO audit, you’ll likely encounter plenty of content pages that could use a little support. On some sprawling e-commerce sites, for instance, it’s common for product descriptions to be duplicated across dozens or hundreds of product pages. Google doesn’t like this.
Another common content issue is thin content. Essentially, that’s content that lacks sufficient depth to be of use to readers. Google obviously doesn’t like this, either.
When duplicate or thin pages are spotted, they should be corrected as soon as possible. Otherwise, they’ll drag the entire site down – not just the offending page. If a lot of pages are in this state, professional help will likely be needed to quickly bring the site’s content standards up. However, site owners can make meaningful upgrades to thin and duplicate content by merely taking the time to write something better and more detailed to replace the poorly performing pages.
Site owners don’t need years of digital marketing experience to perform basic SEO maintenance
It’s absolutely true that modern SEO is a complex undertaking. There are many, many factors that go into every page’s ranking, and optimizing them is beyond the scope of what one person can do, in most cases.
That said, website owners still have a major role to play in how their digital marketing efforts are managed. Specifically, site owners have a great deal of influence over their site’s content and, with minimal digital marketing training, can perform a range of basic SEO tasks. There’s plenty more than the five listed above, but if site owners just do the above, they’ll be well ahead of many of their competitors.
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