If you’re like most people, you’ve probably already checked out for the year. Clients are out of the office, you’re on vacation, and 2015 contracts have already been signed. There’s nothing left to do but close that computer, put on your slippers, throw a log on the fire, and hibernate until January 2nd.
Or…keep that laptop open, give your site a good scrub, and get a jump-start on your competition going into next year!
After all, they key to a solid SEO strategy is continuous improvement. As Stoney deGeyter pointed out in a recent article, “you don’t always get your SEO perfect the first time out.” We have to use our learnings and data to adjust our strategies and make the site better.
So, as we head into the New Year and everyone else is busy resting, give your business a leg up by revisiting, revising, and readying your site for 2015.
When you started your SEO program, you probably got a killer technical audit. You knew the details of every page. You knew where all the errors and redirects were coming from, where all the broken images were, where your site was lagging, and much, much more. And you fixed it.
But what has been done to the site since?
Pages have likely been added or removed, tags modified, images removed. Perhaps URLs changed, the site was redesigned, new sections were added, etc. Do you know where the site stands at this exact moment?
Make sure the site is technically sound going into the New Year by taking these steps:
Use Screaming Frog
Run a Screaming Frog report to identify any existing errors, redirects, duplicate URLs, and/or canonical errors.
You can also make sure you have the correct Google Analytics code on every page. How? Check out this great post from SEER Interactive.
Once you have all your information gathered, you can begin fixing any and all issues.
Check Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools is another good place to identify any errors occurring on the site. Aside from the standard 404 errors you might see, you can also check for robots issues, server issues, and sitemap errors.
If you’ve implemented Schema markup or Hreflang tags, Webmaster Tools will also provide information on both of those, showcasing any errors that may be occurring within those tags.
Update Google Analytics Goals
While it (thankfully) doesn’t happen too often, I’ve certainly seen cases in which goal URLs are changed or new forms are added and the proper tracking is not put into place.
One of the nice things Google Analytics (GA) now does is provide information on goal tracking. It will alert you if there are any drastic changes to your goal numbers or if it sees any irregularities within your account.
Make sure to take a look at your GA goals to ensure the URLs are correct, are tracking properly, and you aren’t missing any important information.
As I noted above, use Screaming Frog to ensure GA tracking code is on all pages.
As the year progresses and we focus on our campaigns, it’s easy to get caught up in the big picture and overlook some of the small stuff.
Revisit The Basics
The basics — like title tags, meta descriptions, and ALT text — may not be high up on your list of strategies, but you shouldn’t forget them.
Using your Screaming Frog report, Export the HTML list and take a fresh look at your tagging. Make sure there are no missing titles or descriptions and no duplicate tags, and ensure that your brand is contained in all titles.
You can also export the list of missing ALT tags to identify opportunities for image tagging.
While these things may seem insignificant in themselves, they can go a long way in helping with that big picture we discussed above.
One of my favorite things to do at the end of each year is to sit down and evaluate the content from the past 12 months. How did it perform? Which content did the best? How can we use this information going forward?
Another avenue to this is, “What can we repurpose?”
Companies spend thousands and thousands of dollars creating content, only for it be posted and never thought of again. It’s really quite sad.
Erin Everhart wrote a post earlier this year, “How To Repurpose Content Without Looking Like A Total Jerk,” that showed how to repurpose both blog content and social updates. I also wrote a post on how to turn old content into new links, which breaks down both the content audit portion and the link building portion.
If you’re interested in repurposing some of that wonderful content you created this year, give them both a read. It’ll give you some easy and valuable content ideas heading into next year.
As publications get ready to kick off the year, their editorial calendars are updated and they are already starting to generate their stories. Get a jump on the year by identifying any opportunities for your business or clients.
Both of these tools will alert you when the content on a selected page is changed, giving you the jump on fresh press opportunities.
Did your office move this year? Did you lose or gain any team members? Were there any significant changes that happened within the business? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it’s important that your online presence reflects those changes.
The first place to start is your contact info. I can’t tell you how many people call the KoMarketing office thinking we are at our address from 9 years ago. Where are they getting that information?!?
As it turns out, tools like Moz Local will actually give me that answer:
See where incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate listings reside. It even includes your social networks like G+, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Bonus: If you need to update your site, Moz Local will adjust the listings for you, ensuring a consistent presence across the web.
Don’t forget about places like Wikipedia or Crunchbase, where consistently changing information like revenue, employees, and stock prices resides.
We can’t control everything on the web that’s said about us, but we can at least try to control our business information.
Last but not least, we can’t get a leg up on our competitors without actually looking at them!
While you probably don’t need to go “full-fledged stalker” in your competitive analysis, giving your existing analysis a quick refresh could certainly be beneficial.
Look at what press mentions they’ve received over the past few months, and identify any potential blogs that also fit your business. Also, take a look to see what their top linked content is.
If you’ve performed a competitive analysis in the past, you likely already have a pretty good idea of what their link building strategy (if any) is, but you may find a few new media targets or influencers to add to your list.
Validate Content Ideas
I’m not a huge fan of looking at a competitor’s site and just stealing their content ideas. I am, however, a huge fan of looking at a competitor’s site, evaluating how their content is performing, and using that data to inform my own content strategy.
With budgets being one of the biggest hurdles to content marketing, understanding where to put those dollars is invaluable.
Use the link data mentioned above to find the top linked pages, or plug your competitor’s site into BuzzSumo to see what their most shared content is. Both of these can provide you with insights into what your audience likes and wants, helping you figure out where you may want to spend your dollars next year.
Identify Strategic Changes
One of the biggest benefits to a competitive analysis refresh is you get a look inside their strategy going into the next year and a better understanding of where they see the future of the business.
Do they have any “coming soon” or new product pages? Did they rename a product or any part of their company?
These types of things can indicate a fundamental shift in how a competitor views the industry, the market, and their product/service. While this is not something you are necessarily going to use in your own strategy, it can help show you some new places to look.
For example, if a competitor is suddenly calling out HR professionals, that may be an audience you want to look at if you haven’t already. If they are using new terminology to describe the industry or their products, you may want to take a look to see if this impacts you. Check Google Trends and search volume data for any additional information.
Knowing what your competitors are doing can help you better understand the landscape, the target market, and inform your own online marketing strategy.
So before you leave the office or throw on those PJs, think about doing these five small things to help give your business a leg up in 2015. Happy holidays!