March is upon us, spring is freshly sprung and the MLB Spring Training season is off and running. Borrowing from the tradition of preparing for warmer months, SEO professionals should take this time to dust off their project plans and exercise those long-tail keywords to improve search relevance and increase website rankings.
SEO Project Planning And Baseline Statistics
It’s an integral part of MLB spring training to have a working document to guide your program goals. Say you are a pitcher for the Red Sox and you want to work on your ERA, the first place you would start is by reviewing copious amounts of game video and determining your strengths and weaknesses. You’ve logged the hours of study time and you’ve determined that your ratio of hit batters and wild pitches is your weak spot, and that control of hitting the corners of the plate is where you can improve. From here you start your schedule of improvement exercises.
Now let’s switch gears and put this in an SEO perspective: you’ve landed a new client or have exhausted all your conventional strategies on a current client and you need a growth strategy — or, in MLB speak, a spring training program. The key to growing your client’s web rankings is to appropriately outline the site’s strengths and weaknesses, while coming up with a way to measure and improve upon the weaknesses and monitor the strengths over time.
My site training program looks like an excel spreadsheet with multiple sheets outlining such site ranking criteria as:
- On-Page Optimizations - For on-page optimizations I use Moz on-page grader as a guide to see what keywords may need attention for greater inclusion throughout the page. This tool analyzes such criteria as URL structure, title tag inclusion and copy inclusion.
- Organic Keyword Tracking - In order to properly track and manage site keywords I utilize a combination of Google Webmaster Tools, Moz and Google Analytics to pinpoint search queries changes, number of keywords included in the copy, number of visits, and visitor behavior stemming from keywords.
- Domain Authority and Page Authority - For transparency in how strong your site and site’s pages rank in Google based on web index and link counts Moz’s Open Site Explorer (OSE) provides a good baseline ranking that you can utilize to show improvement over time. Of course, Moz like any tool, has shortcomings and inaccuracies. So for something as important as backlink profile research, it's good to cross reference OSE data with Majestic, and even Webmaster Tools.
Once you’ve created the training program of baseline metrics you need to comb through each sheet and relate the data together. Are you showing a low number of visits for the keyword “batting gloves” and a correspondingly low on-page grade for that keyword? If so, you have created a link and an opportunity to grow. Creating this document is just the beginning though, now you need to put in the practice hours and start working on building upon that base.
Research Your SEO Competition
A good start when building out your plan is to look at your competitors. Where has your competition excelled that in turn weakens your search game. Here are three tools that help analyze your competition, so you can step up to the next level.
- Google Trends - Google Trends provides a wealth of competitor information including related queries and geo-locational information when you put in a competitor's brand name or keyword query.
- SpyFu - Provides competitor paid and organic keywords as well as ad copy used over time. This gives you insight into what your competitors find valuable through keyword usage, keyword bidding, and ad timing.
- Open Site Explorer - For domain, page, and social share metrics, look here to compare your rankings against your competition.
Add these extra insights to your growth strategy and you have the beginnings of a SEO training program that will have your team members doing the wave.
Working On Your Mechanics
Any ballplayer can tell you the real key to owning that fastball or homerun swing is by working on your mechanics. Tweaking little by little each operation that feeds into your greater structure. For baseball players this may mean shifting you batting stance for search marketers this may mean setting up your rel=canonicals to emphasize a high authority page. Specific improvements to website mechanics can include: URL structure optimization to emphasize keywords, site maintenance to address any site errors, rel=canonical to emphasize a specific page, and structured data to showcase your content in rich snippet form.
You now have a document full of data thicker than the umpire’s chest protector, but the key to making this document into a winning strategy is implementing your insights and benchmarking these metrics over time. Schedule out a time each week to monitor every metric you’ve outlined and see if you have achieved any growth. With these steps you are on the right track to a World Series search experience, so step up to the plate and have a ball!