In uncertain times, jump start your SEO

As a result of the current economic volatility many startups and even established companies are proceeding with caution on paid marketing that is typically lower in the purchase funnel. Sales and funnel and buying behavior has changed and it is hard to have confidence in advertising models that used to work at the beginning of the year.

Therefore, this is an ideal time to develop or ramp up organic search engine optimization efforts. If you have not yet invested in SEO, these are the seven steps you can take immediately to get started.

1. Get your search data house in order

Tools to help you organize your search data include Google Search Console. These tools are geared toward helping you get the best type of search data possible by search traffic and performance for your website, as well as identifying issues that you can fix to improve your Google Search results.

Although there are beneficial tools available that show visibility, which helps you see who ranks on what, those work primarily for tracking competitors. To understand your own visibility as well as the keywords and pages that drive organic traffic to your site, Google Search Console delivers that data.

2. Conduct a technical SEO audit

The goal of a technical SEO audit is to find specific SEO issues that keep your website from ranking. These SEO issues could include things like a missing no-index tag, too many H1 tags, low value pages, 404 errors and duplicate content.

There are many SEO audit tools available that can help you catch these issues. With Google’s ongoing algorithm updates, a technical SEO audit can help ensure your website is optimized for these changes.

If a technical SEO audit is not something that you or someone on your team can do, it can be outsourced to an agency. Before partnering with an agency, make sure you understand the agency’s technical abilities. You want to work with an agency that can supply specific reports on gaps and technical SEO issues on your own website rather than a book report or long list of generic tasks that you need to fix that you probably won’t end up fixing.

3. Conduct a content audit

Hopefully, you already have a number of pages of content on your site that are driving organic traffic. If these pages already exist, then this is the time to review those pages, determine their value and identify the keywords that are driving traffic.

Google Search Console is again a helpful tool to determine if your conversion elements and pages are optimized. Identify your users for this content. This is the time to delve into how that content is accurately targeting those users. This process must go deeper than just checking that your content satisfies certain keywords. Look for ways to change that content so you write it around the user. This is where you can find some gaps.

Also, you should conduct this content audit on both nonbranded and branded content, such as price and contact forms. Users will interact with both types of content, so it’s critical to analyze all of it for user relevance and engagement.

4. Build an SEO function

If you have not done any SEO on your team, this is the opportunity to build an SEO function within the company that can start tackling SEO. Typically, companies put this function within the marketing team, which I believe is a mistake.

Instead, SEO should be tackled by someone in product management. This is someone who can oversee SEO from the perspective of bringing product management, engineering and marketing together. In small companies this doesn’t need to be someone’s full-time job; rather it can just be a portion of their overall responsibilities.

The person in charge of SEO can then wrap everything around content, leveraging their technical abilities to develop long-term road maps of where SEO should go. This approach can also help steer the SEO strategy toward the user rather than the search engine.

If the internal SEO owner does not have a background in SEO, they can and should be prepared with an external growth-minded consultant who can help them level up on their SEO decision-making.

5. Look at backlinks and inbound links

Backlinks connect one website to another. This tactic is not only important to use to attract search engines, but it is also critical to maximize inbound links, which connect one page of a website to another page of the same site.

However, just like keywords, don’t use links just for the sake of links. Align how links are used in conjunction with the overall SEO strategy directed at users, offering them value to access additional relevant and valuable content.

From my experience with clients, the organizations that do the best work with PR agencies that understand SEO rather than those that just chase links.

6. Keep reviewing and improving

You cannot just do SEO because it is essentially an iterative process. It involves ongoing learning with the goal of constant improvement. Therefore, you need to set up a process to revisit and improve how you do SEO. This involves reporting on SEO results and then tactics to make it continually better.

7. Build out your toolbox

There are so many different tools that you can use for SEO, but the ones that are the most valuable are those that provide actionable data rather than just tracking rankings, which should never be a KPI. I recommend the following tools: RankRanger as a general Swiss Army knife for backlink research, reporting and research. Ahrefs or SEMrush are also good options for the same. Oncrawl for cloud-driven site crawls and SiteBulb for crawling on your desktop.

Follow these seven steps to quickly go from having no SEO to a foundation for organic growth and visibility that will serve you well through any economic situation. In future posts, I will detail my process for building scalable SEO on top of this foundation.