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A Checklist For Essential Year-Round Tasks

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A Checklist For Essential Year-Round Tasks

SEO is a big discipline. Without structure and planning, a lot of time and dollars can be wasted or used inefficiently.

A lot of SEO activities are started and never completed.

Couple that with the fact that SEO is never “done,” and it can be hard to start, finish, and stay on track with prioritized strategic and tactical elements that have a chance to make a real impact.

By breaking SEO down into daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual milestones and process-driven tactics, you can build the right level of planning to keep it on track and efficient.

These activities should be tied to goals and a larger strategy, but offer a great framework for how to make sure SEO is well planned and structured on an annual basis.

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Daily

Educate Yourself

Staying up to date on industry news is a critical aspect of SEO that must be built into any maintenance or ongoing management plan.

This ranges from the mission-critical alerts and updates the search engines announce themselves to keeping tabs on SEO best practices and breaking news from sources like Search Engine Journal.

Big shifts in the industry are hard to miss.

But smaller, more subtle changes can become magnified when you miss them or best practices become outdated.

Don’t fall behind or deploy outdated tactics!

Know Your Current Metrics

Monitoring your key SEO performance metrics in real-time, or at least once per day, is especially necessary for brands and companies that rely on ecommerce transactions or lead volume to feed a sales team.

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Knowing how your website is performing in search through top-level metrics is important for recognizing any red flags. These could include:

  • A specific or aggregate positioning drop.
  • An organic traffic drop.
  • A decrease in sales or lead volume.

Being able to recognize problems as soon as they happen is key.

You need to be able to diagnose issues and reverse any negative trends before they impact your overall marketing and business goals.

By keeping tabs on actual performance, you can compare to benchmarks and baselines to make sure that you fully understand cause and effect with your metrics and not have an issue happen for too long before you can intervene.

You can monitor less critical KPIs (any that don’t necessitate an immediate reaction) on a weekly basis.

Make Progress On Tactics

A solid SEO plan or campaign must have goals, a strategy, and specific tactics outlined.

Without a plan, process, or defined approach, you can waste a lot of time chasing specific SEO aspects that might be low impact and low priority.

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The daily process should include specific tasks, milestones, and achievable actions that work toward the bigger picture.

The tactics can include things being done for the first time in a phased approach or action items that are more in a rinse and repeat methodology.

Regardless, the list of specific technical, on-page, and off-page action items should be defined for the year, broken out into months, and further into tactics and progress that can be made on a daily basis to stay on track.

SEO requires both big picture thinking and the ability to tackle daily tasks and action items.

Monthly

Report On Performance

Beyond the daily or weekly KPI monitoring, it’s often important to use monthly cycles to more broadly report on performance.

The focus of monthly checkpoints allows for dedicated time to compare a larger sample size of data and see trends.

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Monthly performance reporting should include year-over-year comparisons of the completed month plus any available year-to-date stats.

Find meaningful intervals to measure and be consistent. Looking at bigger ranges of time helps to see trends that are hard to decipher in small sample sizes.

Any stories of the what and why for deviations in goal, celebrations for exceeding goals, and metrics that warrant possible changes to the plan are critical to the surface and prioritize through a dashboard or snapshot report of the performance data.

Recap Completed & Continuing Action Items

This is a chance to evaluate the tactics and execution in the previous month against the plan.

  • Was everything completed?
  • Were there deviations?
  • What obstacles or roadblocks were in the way or overcome?

Looking at the past helps shape the future.

When you combine the action items and tactics with the performance data, you should get an overall picture of the reality of what is driving SEO performance.

Plan Next Month’s Action Items & Evaluate The Plan

Monthly intervals are great for ensuring accountability for the completion of tasks.

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Even when the year is planned out, things change in SEO, and performance isn’t always what we expect after doing something the first time.

Taking a monthly planning approach, adjustments can be made to the plan like doubling down on a specific tactic or adjusting the overall strategy to recalibrate.

By being agile enough to monthly evaluate performance and tactics, you can avoid overthinking things and reacting too swiftly, but also not let too much time pass and lose footing with trends toward goals.

Having a good balance of planned tactics and actions versus the need for agile methods to pivot when needed is often the best approach to stay current and proactive.

Quarterly

Technical Issues Auditing

Assuming you have covered technical issues at the beginning of your SEO focus and are also watching for any that trigger red flags in daily and weekly monitoring, it is important to take a broader look through an audit each quarter.

This audit should include a review of reported issues in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

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Plus, comparison to benchmarks and standards for site speed, mobile usability, validation of structured data, and the aspects that aren’t often looked at on a more frequent basis.

On-Page Issues Auditing

Without an audit process and even with frequent monitoring, things happen on websites.

A code update, database update, a plugin/extension update, or publishing content can cause duplicate tags, duplicate content, or even missing on-page elements.

A quarterly audit of on-page issues that can be conducted using a wide range of free and subscription third-party tools is important.

There are tools that will even send alerts and factor into the daily process if something changes like a meta description being wiped out.

Regardless, having a solid tools stack and process for quarterly evaluation and comparison to the previous audit is important to ensure that the results of the audit and any fixes needed are noted and make it into the tactical plan.

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Link Profile Auditing

The SEO plan overall likely includes some form of link building.

Whether that is through attracting links with engaging content or a more focused plan of research and outreach, it is likely a part of the ongoing tactics (or should be considered, if it isn’t).

The investment of time and effort into the tactics makes it important to have visibility of the overall link profile and progress.

This might be a performance metric tracked in the monthly reporting phase, but quarterly should be audited in a deeper sense.

Evaluating the quality of links, the number of links, diversity of sources, relevancy of linked content, comparisons to competitors, comparisons to benchmarks, and period-over-period comparisons are all important aspects to ensure that the plan is performing as intended in the area of backlinks.

Plus, if not caught through daily or monthly efforts, any spammy links or negative SEO attempts can be caught here and addressed through the disavow process.

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Local Listings Audit

Once local listings management is in maintenance mode, there won’t be a frequent need for major changes with NAP (name, address, phone) data or inconsistencies in listing data.

However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen and that it can be “set it and forget it.”

An audit using third-party tools to ensure accuracy and consistency of data is strongly advised at least quarterly.

This audit can identify issues that can be addressed on a one-off basis as well as provide guidance on performance and any needed changes to the content, reviews, and other aspects of the listings themselves beyond the basic NAP data.

If any third-party data sources or listings were missed, Google Business Profile data can be overwritten with inaccurate listing info.

Even if nothing changes with your management of listings, data can change and needs to be monitored at a minimum.

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Yearly

Measure Performance

When running annual plans for SEO – and even when not on annual agreements or evaluation cycles – taking an entire year of data and evaluating it is helpful to advise strategy and find measurable ROI calculations.

SEO is a long-term process to achieve the most competitive positioning possible in search engines. It is a valuable investment of time to look at performance data over 12-month spans, compare it to previous periods, look at benchmarks, and celebrate successes.

Even if you don’t have annual budgets or agreements with outside partners/providers, taking an annual step back and looking at performance and the effort like an investment rather than an expense is important.

Planning Strategy & Tactics

In addition to reviewing yearly performance data, you should also be planning out your goals, strategy, and tactics for the next year.

Even though the plan could change a week into maintenance, having a plan, and setting a target is a key to measuring progress.

Without a plan and using past learnings and a realistic view of the resources being invested in the coming year, there can be a gap between expectations and reality.

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It is best to sort this out before getting months down the road.

Conclusion

We all have goals and specific outcomes we want to achieve from our SEO investments and efforts.

Rather than reacting and getting pulled into things that scream the loudest, having a structure and organization to how the work is done can keep your time and investment focused.

Whether it is technical factors, on-page, content, or backlinks, by having a set cadence and structure in your approach you can balance both planned activities and maintain the agility needed to react at the moment.

And make sure that progress is made and priorities for SEO work don’t get out of balance.

More Resources:

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Google On Diagnosing A Deindexed WordPress Site

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Google explains how to diagnose why a site dropped from the search index after a site migration

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about a WordPress site that was completely deindexed from Google Search after changing to a different web hosting platform. Mueller’s answer shows where to start investigating the reasons why that happens.

Dropped From Index After A Site Migration

A submitted question to the Google Office Hours podcast related that their site disappeared from the search engine results pages after they had migrated their site from WordPress to “self-publishing” and that the site was subsequently deindexed.

The question may mean that they were hosting the site on the WordPress.com managed WordPress platform and then migrated their site away to another web host, typically referred to as self-hosting.

Migrating a WordPress site to another web host takes a few relatively simple steps but it can go wrong at virtually every step of the process.

More on migrating a WordPress site later because it’s relevant to the question.

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John Mueller Answers The Question

Mueller answered the question from the point of view of analyzing the website itself, which is the best place to start in this specific case. The reason is because the question implies that the site can still be reached online.

This is the question:

“After the site was transferred from WordPress to self-publishing, almost all publications disappeared from the index. The search results are ‘0’.”

John Mueller responded:

“If your website dropped out of the search results and is no longer being indexed at all, right about the time when you did a migration, then my guess is that your new website is somehow blocking search engines, or at least, blocking Google. I’d start by analyzing the data in the Search Console, and working forward from there.”

Search console may show the exact date that pages started dropping out of Google’s index and the reason why they’re dropping out. Typical reasons may be the pages are not found (404) or that Google was blocked from crawling by a robots.txt. Those are the starting points for identifying what’s happening on Google’s side.

Diagnose If WordPress Is Blocking Google

This kind of problem typically happens when a WordPress site is set to be hidden from the search engines, which means there’s a robots.txt entry that’s blocking search engines from indexing the site.

Google Search Console will tell you when this is happening through the Page Indexing Report which will show that the site is blocked by a robots.txt in the column of the report labeled “Why pages aren’t indexed”.

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If that’s the case then you can actually see this to be the case in your robots.txt file typically located in the root of your domain, /robots.txt (example.com/robots.txt).

If the page is blocked by Robots.txt then it may be that a WordPress setting was applied at some point in the migration to block search indexing.

This is a setting that’s native to the WordPress admin panel that can be reached here:

Settings 🡪 Reading.

There you’ll find a setting called “Search Engine Visibility” with a checkbox labeled Discourage search engines from indexing this site.

Screenshot Of WordPress Visibility Setting

WordPress search visibility settings

If that’s the case then untick that box and you’re done.

If there’s a robots.txt entry that’s blocking search engines but the above box isn’t checked then it could be another plugin doing that, like an SEO or migration plugin. If that’s not the case then maybe whoever was helping do the move inserted that entry in which case it’s an easy thing to download the robots.txt, edit the file in a text file editor then uploading it back.

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Other issues could be a failure to update DNS settings to point to the new web hosting service or it could be something on the web host side. Starting the investigation at Google Search Console is good advice.

Listen to Google’s answer here at the 7:24 minute mark:

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

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Google Answers Whether Having Two Sites Affects Rankings

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Google John Mueller answers if publishing multiple sites could affect rankings

Google’s John Mueller answered whether having two sites could negatively affect search rankings. His answer is surprisingly applicable to different ways of interpreting the question.

Can Having Two Sites Affect Rankings?

A person submitted a question to Google where they wanted to know if having two sites could negatively affect their rankings. The question as reproduced in Google is concise and also a little vague which leads to the outcome that the question can be answered in way that’s different from the way that Mueller answered it.

This is the question:

“My rankings have dropped due to Google finding out I have two websites. Is this correct?”

Google’s John Mueller answered:

“No. That’s not likely. Many people have several websites. Separate websites are not a problem.

The issue is often more indirect: if you work on a lot of websites, you’re not going to have a lot of time to make truly awesome websites everywhere. And, if you’re making websites that aren’t awesome, then that can be something which our algorithms pick up on when it comes to recommending your site to others.”

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A Different Way To Answer The Question

John Mueller answered the question under the assumption that the two sites in the question are on different topics. He prefaced his answer by saying that many “people have several websites” which is true.

But many people don’t have multiple websites on the same topic. The person asking the question was vague about whether the sites were about different topics, too.

It’s very possible that the sites are on the same topic, in which case it makes sense why they may be concerned that Google found out about the two sites because it could be seen as trying to game Google. After all, who worries about having multiple sites on different topics?

If the sites were on the same topic then the answer to the question is somewhat different.

One of the important considerations when one person controls multiple sites on the same topic is that they’re doing it for ranking purposes which is not a good starting point for any website.

I’m not saying there’s something corrupt about the practice but I am saying that it’s not really the best starting point for creating signals of quality. It’s not a matter of someone thinking that they’re going to create multiple high quality sites for users, right?

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Another reason why people create multiple sites for ranking (and not quality) is because people feel if they split up a topic into subsidiary subtopics they can create stronger sites about those related subtopics as opposed to one site with multiple related subtopics.

But what almost inevitably happens is that they wind up running multiple related sites that could be stronger together as one authoritative website.

I asked Bill Hartzer of Hartzer Consulting (Facebook profile) if he thought multiple sites on the same topic could affect rankings.

Bill agreed with me and shared:

“A lot of people, after building a website that ranks well, will think that they can simply create another website on the same topic and “make double the money” or get “double the traffic” and it’s simply not true.

Companies will also have one main website, but they’ll create a separate website on a separate domain name for each of their products or services. Over the past 10 years or so, that hasn’t been a good strategy. While it’s good to register the domain names of your products or services, it’s better to combine all those websites into one main, more authoritative website.

Typically if they’re on the same topic, one website, the original site, will continue to rank well. But the second website doesn’t rank as well. In most cases, it’s always better to combine the websites into one website.”

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Multiple Sites And Rankings

John Mueller is right that publishing multiple sites (on different topics) could compromise a person’s ability to focus on one site to make it outstanding, remarking that there’s an indirect negative effect on rankings. He is also correct in saying that it’s unlikely to have a direct negative effect on rankings.

Changing the question to whether there’s an effect on ranking if the multiple sites are on the same topic, then the answer becomes more nuanced but follow a similar trajectory as Mueller’s original answer that it detracts from being able to create one outstanding site and can lead to a person creating multiple middling sites.

But that’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion when a person is creating  multiple sites on different topics. It’s absolutely possible to create multiple sites on different topics and to be successful at it. It might be hard for one person alone to pull it off but it’s not difficult to do when multiple people are working on the websites creating content and focusing on promotion.

Watch/listen to the Google SEO Office hours at the 33 second mark:

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

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