Measuring and prioritising SEO

Do you know what you’re getting from SEO? Success is measured in a number of different ways, but what are those ways?

 approx 66 minute video

Measuring & Prioritising SEO

Nettl Academy SEO Live Event! Session 16

This session is the sixteenth in a new series of live events from Nettl. In this session, the team spend their time talking through building an online community and why it’s an important action for your business?

To know whether something is a success, you first must know how to measure it. Then you can adjust your plans based on what’s working and know which areas to prioritise. In session #16 the focus is on knowing what you’re getting from SEO. Success is measured in a number of different ways, but what are those ways?

  • Primary measures of SEO success;
  • How to prioritise SEO with a small budget (priority/impact/effort assessment);

Plus the team were on hand to answer questions. Keep an eye out for more live sessions. If you have questions in the meantime contact your local team and we’ll be delighted to help.

Check out the next video in our SEO webinar series

Today’s session is on measuring and prioritising SEO which is super important, whether you are a business owner yourself or whether you’re a studio manager. Whoever you are, in some way, you need to understand how to measure SEO success because you’re either spending your money on it or you’re spending someone else’s money on it. So it’s a super important topic to be talking about. If you’ve got marketing spend and you’ve got a certain amount of budget and you’ve decided to spend some of that budget on SEO, you need to justify that spend and why you spent it on search engine optimisation versus another channel, for example. 

So what we are going to go through today is why we need to measure SEO, some tips on setting goals and how you set goals for SEO, the different metrics that we can look at and track. I’m sure if you know about search engine optimisation, you’ve probably heard quite a few different metrics that people talk about – like KPIs – we’re going to go through some of them and give you a bit of information on how you might want to focus on which metrics you’re looking at, and we’re going to look at an SEO report. So what makes a good report? Whether you are the one receiving the report or whether you’re the one creating a report, it should hopefully be some useful content in terms of having that report and reviewing it. A bit about how to prioritise SEO so that links into the measurement. If you’re measuring what you’re doing and the success of it, then how do you prioritise what you need to do next? How you can build an SEO roadmap in order to prioritise the work that you need to do and then just a bit of recap on what we’ve gone through. 

Why do we need to measure SEO efforts?

So firstly, why do we need to measure SEO efforts? We need to demonstrate the value of search engine optimisation. So why are you spending money or time on your website in order to appear in Google search results? If we can’t measure and show the value of search engine optimisation, then there’s no point putting money into it. So again, that’s to justify the budget or the time you are spending. Whether it is yourself or whether there’s an agency or whether you have different people in the business that are uploading blogs to the site, for example, or people that are posting on social media in order to try and help SEO, we need to make sure that you get buy-in and prioritisation from anyone that is inputting into SEO efforts. 

To increase SEO spend and accelerate success. I’m not saying that you have to spend more in SEO to see better results, but in some ways you do because, whether it’s budget or wherever it’s time, if you don’t put the time or the budget into it, you’re probably not going to see results as quickly. So if you really want to see really quick results, then you might need to increase your spend or you might need to increase the time you are spending in order to see success quicker. As I’ve previously said, SEO is a longer term strategy, not short-term overnight fix. 

Having SEO goals in mind

With measuring SEO, it’s always important to start with the end goal in mind. Whatever the end goal is of the business. It’s usually revenue, it’s always revenue, isn’t it? It’s always profit or the key metrics that you need in order to succeed. So why do you want to be visible on organic search results? So in Google or Bing or any search engine, why do you want to be there? Start with that end goal. If you try and start with, ‘I want to be positioned one for this keyword’, you’re not starting with ‘what is the key reason that I want to be positioned one?’ and I think you need to work backwards to look at those key metrics. So always start with the end goal. It should always be related to your commercial business objectives, whatever they are – usually sales, revenue, profit. For example, at Nettl, we can’t make you more money from your website necessarily, so we can drive more traffic and we can drive quality traffic by targeting the right keywords but if you have a really bad website and it doesn’t convert, or if you have a really bad product offering or service, then that isn’t necessarily something we can impact. But I would always say that your SEO agency can always consult on different things as to why you might not be performing well. 

Then after you set that own goal, you should look at the additional goals within that and additional benchmarks. Then you should make sure you’re tracking your SEO metrics on a monthly basis or weekly basis, it depends how much traffic you get. If you’re a big e-commerce company, if you’re ASOS, for example, they probably have daily SEO reports or weekly. Whereas if you’re a smaller business and your traffic isn’t as high or things don’t change as much, then you’re likely to have monthly SEO reports. 

Tracking the metrics that we talk about today, and the goals, would ensure that you can focus your efforts and make sure that you are seeing some benefit from SEO. Obviously that benefit isn’t necessarily going to be overnight but there’s different metrics that you can look at to show that you are seeing benefits. It might not be that when you first start SEO that every month your revenue goes up because it’s going to take time for you to perform well. But there might be other metrics that are starting to go up that make you realise that you’re going in the right direction in order to get to that own goal. Also it helps you keep a better pulse on your site health. So if you can see that your site speed is changing or your domain score is changing then you can see the work that’s being done, from the SEO perspective, is showing some sort of improvement in your SEO optimisation.

Money. It all comes back to money, basically. Anything within SEO marketing, always relate it back to the money that you want to get from it. 

Example end goals

We’ve got a few examples here of where I was speaking about the end goal. Column one has the type of company that you are – so if you were an e-commerce company, for example, your end goal for that year might be, ‘I want to achieve 2000 sales and 20,000 pounds in revenue’. So how do you achieve that end goal and how do you then have additional measures, from an SEO perspective, to achieve that? You might then want to say, ‘I want to drive 100,000 visits to the website through SEO. Then through those 100,000 visits, if you were to convert 2% of those visits to a sale, then you would achieve that 22,000 online sales. Then if you wanted to achieve an average order value: of the 2000 sales on your website, on average a customer spends 10 pounds, then you would achieve that 20,000 pounds in revenue. So as you can see, I’m working backwards here. 

The first goal is this, the amount of online selves and the amount of revenue that you want to achieve for the year. Then the additional measures are how SEO can play into that – this is how much traffic I want, this is what I want the conversion rate to be, this is what I want the average order value to be. Then there will be additional metrics within that are specific to SEO that you look at specifically, aside from traffic, for example. Then if you’re a restaurant, you may also have revenue and you might want to achieve a certain amount of table bookings from SEO and then you might want to do them through your website or through your Google My Business page. They can be specifically targeted to how many you want to achieve through organic search. If you’re a building company, you may want to achieve a 100,000 pounds of revenue from 10 clients and if you want to do that, your website needs to drive 1000 new business leads and you need to convert 1% of those into 10k projects. 

So if you’re doing SEO activity at the moment, and you’re not relating that back to the overall business metrics, I’d highly recommend doing that. Look at Google analytics, look at how much revenue and how many conversions are coming through organic search, is it your best performing channel? Is it your worst performing channel? Is it improving? Is it making you money? Because if it’s not making you money, then you need to work out why and you need to improve it. 

If you can’t measure your leads from SEO back to your website like when people go on your website and then they call you up, how do you track that? You need to be able to somehow track it all back to organic search. So I’d highly recommend speaking to us, if you have a package at Nettl, if you feel like you’re not really tracking it at the moment. There will be a way to track it most of the time. It might take a little bit of kind of working out, depending on the website and depending on what the goal is, but there will always be a goal of the website and there’ll always be a way of tracking it somehow. 

Tips for setting goals

So a couple of tips. This all sounds a bit cliche, to be honest, as everyone’s the smart way of setting goals but I think a few tips here is everything within SEO can be measured and tracked. Whether you want to set up your own report or however you decide to track things, you should always be able to measure improvements and declines. I do want to mention SEO is a very volatile industry, things can fluctuate on a daily basis. The amount of clients that have come to us and say, ‘my position is four today but yesterday it was three or two’, that does happen. Your site speed might change and it might go up or down. But if you can see an incremental improvement over time, and that’s what you want to show. Don’t be alarmed if things change on a daily or weekly basis, that can happen. 

Obviously be very specific. There’s a lot of industry/marketing jargon out there. You can say, ‘I want to improve my brand awareness’ – which is fine, that’s a goal – but how are you going to measure that you’ve improved your brand awareness? From an SEO perspective, if you want to improve your brand awareness, I would say that in Google search console – which is another platform – you need to be tracking how many people are searching for your brand and is that going up over time? If it’s not, then you’re probably not improving your brand awareness. So make sure that there’s actually a metric next to every single goal that you set. 

Obviously have a time in mind. Forecast. If you start an SEO campaign tomorrow, what is your three month goal? What is your six months goal? What is your nine month goal? Your goal in a year? Then you can always re-forecast, if needed. It’s very difficult with algorithm updates and changes to get things exactly right in SEO and it’s not as easy to forecast as some other things but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t forecast. I wouldn’t let anyone tell you, ‘it’s SEO, we can’t forecast that, we can’t try and see where we’re going to be in a year’s time’ because if you don’t have that goal, how are you ever going to know if you’re closer to achieving it? You can always re-forecast. I’m sure everyone forecasted their sales and their business plans, and then COVID changed it all and everyone had to re-forecast. But that is just how it works. So always set a forecast. 

Also make sure you write down your goals because you can always go back and then look at them as well and see if they’ve been achieved. They’ll keep you on the right path. I think sometimes, especially within SEO, new things can come out and we can go a bit off track. I think you need to focus on what’s important. Yes, we have to be reactive but you also need to have some sort of plan in place and a roadmap so that you know what you’re going to achieve. 

Important metrics for SEO

Now, I’m going to go through some of the boring metrics that we talk about in SEO, some of the ones that are more important and slightly less important. Everyone focuses on keyword rankings, which is fine because ultimately that’s the one tangible thing that you can see – you can always see what position you are in. But how do you relate back the keyword ranking to what you’re achieving? Because I doubt anyone says, ‘my position changed’ and then goes and looks at have my sales changed or have my other metrics changed too? I wouldn’t always focus on keyword rankings. There’s a few reasons for this. 

I think unless you’re spending thousands of pounds more than your competitors on SEO, then you might not achieve that top position in comparison to them for a really high search volume keyword. Everyone has their competitors who they think are their business competitors – someone that’s quite similar to you, maybe a similar size, a similar budget, the other local business down the road. Then everyone will have organic competitors and the organic competitors can be very different from your business competitors. Because if you have a key word that you want to rank for your competitors are the other people that ranked for that keyword, not necessarily people who you think are your competitors. So you just need to bear in mind your budget and your time that you can spend versus who else is a competitor for organic search. 

So if my keyword that I wanted to rank for was ‘Easter eggs’, for example, I might have a look at who’s ranking for Easter eggs and I would see Tesco, Iceland, Thornton’s, Cadbury’s and I’d say, ‘I’m a very small business, how do I compete with them?’ It’s not to say you can’t do well from an SEO perspective if there are highly competitive terms and highly competitive competitors, you just need to get your metrics right and understand what you can achieve. 

Also longer tail terms. These are the terms that are not ‘Easter eggs’ but they might be ‘Easter eggs for diabetics’ and that may be a lot less competitive. You might be able to perform a lot better with those terms than some of the very broad terms. 

Also your ranking. Just because you rank well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to convert that traffic because you could try and make your site rank well for loads of keywords, do the SEO great and then when they get to your site and you’re really not offering the right thing, then they won’t convert. So it’s really important to think of SEO as driving the right traffic and the right quality of traffic because that quality of traffic will then hopefully determine whether they convert into a lead or a sale. Also, as I said before, maintaining a top position can be very difficult, you need to be on it consistently. You have to bear in mind, SEO isn’t just about what you’re doing. It’s about what all the other sites are doing. You don’t necessarily know what they’re doing all the time so there’s so many different things that come into play that you can’t determine that. 

The only thing that you really can determine is the experience that people have when they get onto your site. So when you do get that traffic, are you converting them? A good user experience will convert people so I’d highly recommend whatever traffic you’re getting at the moment, having a look at how much of that traffic actually ends up being someone that has called or messaged you or emailed you from your website. Because even if you’re already driving a hundred visits per month from SEO, if 20 or 30 of those converted to a lead, that might be enough. But if you were converting two people from that, only two people are contacting you as a result of 100 people visiting your website then you’re not seeing the best value there. So you need to think about the experience and then also creating evergreen content will drive incremental traffic. So this is about not necessarily targeting those top value keywords but targeting the lower search volume keywords, or just creating great content that you’re sharing on social media, that you’re getting out there, that will drive incremental traffic increases. 

So optimising for organic search isn’t necessarily about being position one, two, or three in Google. There’s other ways to get traffic organically. From Google My Business, from social media, from the content you’ve created. Have a think about other ways that you can track success from SEO rather than just top keywords, top positions.

Some other metrics: where I’ve spoken about user experience, this is where engagement comes into play. Specifically, how are people behaving when they reach your site? This is what you need to look out because no matter what volume of traffic you’re getting, if that traffic just isn’t performing on your site, it’s really pointless. So I’d highly recommend, from an SEO perspective, looking into Google analytics. If you don’t know how to look at the data from Google Analytics, ask someone to help you or try to work it out using online learning guides and things, because if you can get these metrics and try and understand what they mean then you can start to understand if your website is providing people with the value that they need. 

For example, your conversion rate is telling you of the people that visited your website, what percentage of those people took the action that I want them to take? So if that action that you wanted them to take was to fill in a contact form, then you can see that all these people that visited my website, this is how many people filled in the contact form. If you can show that improving over time from organic search, then you can show that there’s more value there. So this is actually a metric that if you improve that conversion rate of people coming to your website for SEO, then you’re actually going to probably impact the bottom line more than just saying, ‘my ranking is going to increase’. So I’d focus on these engagement metrics: time on page, if someone’s coming to a service or product page and they’re bouncing off it straight away or they spend like 10 seconds and then go, then, are you providing them with the information that they need? You have to look at this and not in isolation and you have to base it based on the situation because if someone has visited your website and they see your phone number straight away, and they call you and then leave the site, then they might not spend loads of time on the page. So you have to look at have they completed this action, but they have only spent a little bit of time on the page. But if they’re visiting a really long page or a really long article, and they’re not spending time engaging with it, then you might not be providing people with what they want. 

Then you can obviously look at the bounce rate. How many pages did they look at when they visited the site? How far did they scroll down? So any engagement metrics are really useful to take a look at to understand how people are behaving, how organic traffic is behaving. And remember, you can look at this from an overall perspective of your site, if you want to, you don’t have to filter it by organic. The reason I would say sometimes to filter by organic is because performance will be different per channel and sometimes your metrics can be swayed by different channels. So if you do something like display marketing, which is where you have the horrible ads that kind of pop up when you’re on different websites and they follow you around, if you’re doing that, the bounce rate is likely to be a lot higher than someone that’s actually clicked on your website from a organic listing. So I would always try to segment your data by channel so that you can get a better understanding of how different channels perform. 

Look at the engagement metrics. I’ve got an example here of what it looks like in Google Analytics. You’ve got the acquisition, which is basically the traffic, and you’ve got the behavior and the conversions and where that conversions column, where it says e-commerce, you can change those. You can scroll down on that and you can have all your different goals. You can have goal one has filled in the contact form, goal two has called, goal three has watched this video. You can have all these different goals and you can track the success of those from different pages on your site. 

Then organic search traffic. As I said before, a handy tip is always when you’re looking at the traffic, always filter by organic so that you don’t have the other channels skew in the data. But this is about how people that have specifically come, from an SEO perspective, to your site and how they are performing, because that’s what you want to know. If you’re looking at search engine optimisation, look at your traffic over time. Has it changed? Has it gone down? I think if you’re seeing, compared to last year – obviously COVID aside because that’s impacted everything – you’re seeing that your traffic is going down, then it’s probably that your positions are worse and your visibility isn’t as good so you need to look at that. Why has this happened? Always be viewing things on a monthly and a yearly basis. Month on month, year on year, has my traffic improved or has it declined? It would go up and down, but you need to see that upward trajectory. 

Pages per visit. You can look at that from an organic search perspective as well. The specific pages that perform well, so which pages are getting traffic and performing well. Non-branded traffic – a lot of people don’t think about it, but it is really important because for SEO your traffic can be going up if more people are searching for your company and more people might be searching for your company, if you’re doing loads of marketing. So actually it kind of skews the organic data because if you’ve done a really big offline campaign, for example, those people might then search for your business on Google and then come to your website and organic will steal that traffic. So SEO will go, ‘we got that traffic’ but that’s because someone searched for your company because of something else you’re doing elsewhere. So you need to look at non-branded traffic, which is the people that have searched for a product or service, anything that does include the name of your company. The name of your company, whilst you can include that in organic metrics, it can be skewed by other activities that you’re doing. 

In Google search console, you can specifically exclude certain words. You can say, if the name of my company was Right Move, I can exclude Right Move from my tracking volume and I can see all other keywords that have excluded the name of my company. Then has my traffic gone up or down over time? That’s really important. 

You can also look at click through rate. This indicates the number of people that have clicked on your organic result from organic search. That’s where your title and your meta description has come into play as to wherever they’ve enticed people to click. 

Other common metrics. These are the ones I suspect people might have heard of. Domain authority, for example. That’s a metric from a company called Moz that was introduced quite a long time ago. You’ve got the domain rating, which is a slightly newer one from a company called AHRefs. You have your number of backlinks. Your trust and citation flow, these scores are from a company called Majestic. These are all SEO companies that come up with their own scores to help people measure if they’re seeing improvements within their website from an SEO perspective. Then your performance score, which is your overall website performance from a site speed and user experience perspective, which is in something called lighthouse. You can find a performance score on loads of different tools – you might use GTmetrix for site speed but the lighthouse one looks at a few different things and gives you one score. 

Avoid vanity metrics and looking at metrics in isolation

With all of these metrics, I would try to avoid focusing on them because they are vanity metrics which means Google doesn’t use these metrics. The only time these metrics are probably quite useful is when you’re benchmarking how competitive you are against your competitors. So if you’re trying to rank for a certain keyword and you can’t understand why you can’t rank for that keyword, what you would then potentially do is have a look at who is ranking for that keyword and understand these metrics from their site versus your site. Then if your site has a domain authority of 10, and then you can see that all the top ranking sites have a domain authority of 40 or 50, you might be like, ‘there’s something here telling me that their site is potentially better than mine’, and then you would dig more into it. 

So never look at any of these metrics in isolation and never use them for proper reporting because they go up and down and they’re also not necessarily indicative of your performance, they’re just quite good to use as a benchmark. 

The same with backlinks. It’s not about the quantity of backlinks, it’s about the relevancy in quality. If you do want to look at competitors’ backlinks to understand why their domain rating or their domain authority is a lot higher than yours, for example. If you think that’s because of backlinks, don’t look at the number of backlinks, look at who they have backlinks from because it’s probably that they actually have a lot more relevant backlinks than you from certain websites. That’s where the trust and citation flow comes into play. The trust flow looks at how trustworthy the links that you have are, so if they’re relevant to your website. The citation flow looks at the popularity of your site. A  good example here is a porn website that would have a really high citation flow because it’s a very popular website, a lot of people were probably linking to it, but it probably has quite a low trust flow so it’s probably not a very trustworthy website. The same with gambling sites. What you need to try and make sure of this score is that there’s a good ratio between your trust and citation flow, that you don’t have a citation flow score of 60 and a trust flow score of 6 because there’s such a big difference there. It suggests that you have a lot of links, but none of them are that trustworthy and Google won’t necessarily see that but it is quite a good indication that that could be the case. You just have to look at these metrics and then look a bit closer into the detail of why those metrics are there and then that will help you to understand them. 

SEO tools

These are all SEO tools. So Moz, Ahrefs, Majestic, and Lighthouse – there’s free versions, but they do also cost money so if you are using these metrics just bear that in mind. I don’t think you really need to be focusing on them at all, to be honest.

Tracking metrics. Any SEO metrics that I’ve gone through, you can use Google analytics or Google search console. They are your best friends if you have a website. You can use Google Lighthouse, and some of the metrics from Lighthouse also go into your Google search console. You can also use Moz, Ahrefs and Majestic. There are free versions available and there would also be other tools out there that give you these metrics but these are these tools that give you the metrics that I’ve spoken about today, which are probably some of the most popular ones. 

It’s worth mentioning that if you are spending time looking at these metrics, then that’s fine. But if you’re looking at them all in isolation, individual metrics, so you’re looking at your traffic volume from Google analytics, and you’re looking at your domain rating, and then you’re looking at how many conversions you have, you don’t really understand what that all means until it’s in a report and it all brings together a story because they don’t really mean anything and isolation. You need to understand what they mean and why these scores are important, for example. So this is where an SEO report will come into play.

SEO reporting

A good SEO report. It needs to be aligned to those business goals that we spoke about at the start. I’m not saying that your report has to put in your overall company revenue or the specific goals to the company, but they need to have that goal that you had for SEO that relates back to your company goal. So if your company goal was 200,000 pounds in revenue for 2021 and your SEO goal was 100,000 pounds in revenue then if you’re not tracking revenue in your SEO report, then how do you know that you’re performing well from an SEO perspective? Your report needs to be aligned to that goal that you set at the start. The report needs to be straight to the point and it needs to have a commentary to summarise the performance. It also depends how often you are getting the reports and if you can understand the data. So if you are the client, then you probably want a summary to understand the report. But if you are putting together the report, then it might be that you have a call or a separate summary but somehow people need to understand what the data means. 

Some data is really easy to understand – so if you’ve got the revenue and you can see it’s going up, then it’s quite self-explanatory. If you do have other metrics in there that are specific SEO metrics that people don’t know what they mean, then that needs to be explained. Always follow up with the commercial metrics: the leads, revenue, sales, whatever they are, because that’s ultimately what people care about. If you follow with those, then I don’t think you’ll get hung up on the vanity metrics, too much. Terms that are complex if you just put them in a report, what does that actually mean? And why might it be important? And why might it be something that you look at? 

Those month or month and year on year changes: you might not have those if you’ve only just set up your Google analytics or your reporting platform but you’ll be able to see it overtime if you keep up with your SEO work. 

Also don’t put too much information in the report because then it doesn’t really make sense if you’re trying to understand what that means. If you have too much or too little, then it doesn’t really provide the value for you to be able to digest it and take some actions away. 

How long does it take to see SEO results?

The question everyone asks: how long does it take to see SEO results? Unfortunately I’ve got a really boring answer to that as it does depend. It depends on your budget and how much time you invest. If your budget is 1000 pounds a month, then you’re going to get a lot more time and a lot more effort input into your site. Whereas if your budget is a lot less, then there’s not going to be as much time put into it. If it’s your own time and you’re not using an agency at all, then it’s how much time are you investing into it because your time probably costs money. So if you’re doing one change to your site a month, then really do you think you’re going to see SEO benefits? Probably not. It’s really thinking about how much time you invest into it and how consistent your time is. If one month you do loads on your website and then the next month nothing happens, then you don’t know when you’re gonna see results because you’re not being consistent. This is where having an SEO project, an ongoing campaign, comes into play because then you’ll be consistent with everything that’s changing within the industry. 

It also depends on the existing state of your website. So if you’ve got a brand new website and you’ve just launched that site, it’s got absolutely no authority so it’s not going to be position one. It’s not going to drive you all of that revenue within a day or within a few weeks. Or if you’ve been given a Google penalty, because you’ve been doing something quite manipulative, it’s going to take a while to recover. Whereas if you’ve got a pretty good website already, you’re performing quite well, but you just want to see some improvements on what you’re doing then you might see quite quick results. 

It also depends on the competitiveness of your niche. So if you are an Easter egg company, for example, you’re competing with the top supermarkets. Whereas if you’ve got a very specific customer – we’ve got a customer that does pipe bending or something – then it’s very niche so it’s a lot less competitive than Easter eggs. So bear in mind when you’re starting a campaign. Also how often search engines crawl your website. That can be dependent on how often you update your website. So if you’re never doing anything to the website, then search engines probably won’t crawl the website so they probably won’t improve your position. 

So it depends on any of the above, basically, so I can’t give you a definitive answer. However, I would say probably from three months to a year to see consistent, incremental growth. But obviously if anything happens in between that time – if I was to spend three months working really hard on your website, and then you went and deleted 20 pages, then, then it would probably dip again. So it depends on what’s happening. If there’s a big algorithm update that might knock you off a bit. Ultimately, if you’re working on your website, you should be preempting what these updates are going to be and hopefully doing everything in the right way so the update won’t necessarily impact you massively. 

If you need to give someone an answer or you want an answer for yourself: probably six months would be like a good answer, I would say. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It should be ongoing. It’s not a piece of activity. It’s not something that you just do over three months and then say, ‘it’s done now, we’ve done that project’ because you’re not gonna see consistent growth. If all you want to do is just have a website and make sure your website has some keywords on it and it performs well and that it’s got good site speed then you can do a three month campaign, but that’s only going to last so long. You might have good site health and good rankings but a month or two later when you stop working on it, it’s probably going to go down again. You have to look at the longer term view. If you want to invest in SEO do not think it’s just going to be a three month piece of activity. 

That’s not to say, if you don’t see results in six months to a year – that you don’t feel like you’re getting any benefit from it – that’s not to say you shouldn’t stop it and change what you’re doing. You have to see results but it’s not gonna happen overnight. If you feel like you haven’t seen results across three months, then try and look at some of the other SEO metrics and it might show that you have seen results. You might not be positioned one but has your quality score improved and has these other scores improved? Because if we can see that these are improved, it might be that it just hasn’t hit the ranking side of things yet. There’s always a metric that you can look at to see if it’s improved on a monthly basis if your overall site goals haven’t necessarily improved straight away. 

Prioritising SEO

Finally, we’re going to talk about prioritising SEO and setting a roadmap. I would always start with prioritising the activity that requires the least amount of time or resource or budget, but that has the most impact because then you can show from the little time we’ve spent on it, this is the impact it’s had. Then, if we had way more budget or if we had way more time, imagine what we could be doing. That then helps to prioritise and get buy-in. If you do have different people in the business or different people that you have to report to, there might be people that have resistance. So if you can demonstrate early returns by working on an activity that doesn’t require loads of input or buy-in from different people, then I would focus on those first. 

The general priority order for SEO, bearing in mind you do have to assess each site on a case by case basis. So if one website already has great content when you start working on it but from a technical perspective it’s really bad, then you probably need to prioritise the technical first. But if you’re starting on an SEO campaign tomorrow, or you’re starting to optimise your website tomorrow, and it’s a brand new site or a really low quality site, always start with content. 

Content is the most important element and backbone of SEO. By content, I don’t just mean your blog articles. Content is every single word that you have on your website, every single CTA, your homepage, your about us page – anything on your website is content. Blogs and articles are just one element of content. 

Crawl-ability. Here, we’d look at the technical side of SEO. So can search engines find your site and your pages? Is your site in good technical health? That means it will be found by search engines quite easily, because if they can’t find your content then it’s kind of pointless. Low quality pages so then I’d look at is there anything that’s bringing the quality of your site down? Don’t be afraid to remove low quality content from your site – as long as it’s redirected – or even update it to make it better. 

Then focus on user experience because you have to have the right content and you have to be able to get people to your site in order to then show them that you have a good user experience and you can convert those people. Then looking back at the initial metrics that I mentioned: tracking, that’s where user experience comes into play. Once they get onto your site, what are they doing? Are they having a good experience? Or do you just have a really bad website? Say, you’ve got the right content on the website, but it’s just not designed in a nice way and people leave the site or don’t perform the action that you need. 

Then trust signals. We’ve done quite a few webinars before about trust, reputation, reviews – all of that is super important, and it’s becoming way more important within SEO as well. So I would focus on looking at your trust signals once you’ve got all of the above right. Do you have the right trust signals going to your website? Do you have backlinks from the right website? Not just do you have backlinks, do you have backlinks from relevant websites? Do you have a good reputation? Do you have the right reviews? All of that needs to be done before you look at the rest of it. Don’t just come to us and go build me backlinks because you’re not going to  get backlinks if you don’t have very good content. And even if you get the back links, if people can’t find your site because of crawl-ability issues, then those backlinks are going to mean nothing because you’re not going to be in the search results. 

I would focus on trying to do it in this order but it might be worth having a mini audit work out where you are sitting with regards to all of these elements. It might be that your content is already great, it’s just your user experience isn’t very good.

Prioritising specific activities

Next, prioritising specific activities. I would just start with prioritising anything urgent so, like we’ve said before, if you’ve got really bad content, if your site is not index and it can’t be found in Google, if there’s core issues are urgent and they’re clearly holding your performance back, they need to be focused on first. Next I’d look at the quick wins. Don’t focus too much on quick wins because sometimes people can have a list of quick wins that actually ends up taking four months and by that time they haven’t actually impacted the site because they’ve just done all these quick wins and haven’t done anything that’s going to have a high impact. So once you’ve done a few quick wins – that could be your page titles, your meta-description – then focus on the high impact, high effort stuff. 

This is where we, at SEO Nettl, can’t do everything for you because a lot of this requires a business involvement in terms of what you have on your website. We can update your page titles, we can optimise your site and we can provide you with recommendations but if you’re not willing to change the website significantly in order to see a big impact then the results you’re going to see are only going to go so far. There’ll probably be recommendations that will say, you need to change this whole page. It needs to be completely rewritten, needs to be completely redesigned in order to perform better – that is a high impact, but high effort piece of activity. But wouldn’t you prefer to do that and see results, than carry on with these quick wins for months on end and not see any impact?

The final things that you can look at are the things that do have an impact and they’re not very high in effort and you just do them on a monthly basis. But when you’re first starting on an SEO project or campaign always have a look at firstly the urgent issues – look at what’s going to have the biggest impact – and then look at the quickest wins and try and prioritise those three things within the time that you have available and how you spend time on each of those.

Building an SEO roadmap

Build a roadmap. Always have a live roadmap within SEO, this is the activity that you’re going to do. Yes, it can be reactive – so if something happens or if you decide you need to change what you’re doing, then that’s fine, the roadmap can be updated. But based on an initial look at the site or initial understanding of SEO, you should be able to have a roadmap. 

So where do we start with SEO? We start with keyword research and then we start with a content audit in order to understand if this site is targeting the keywords that it needs. There should always be some sort of roadmap. We have one at Nettl that we follow. We obviously change it based on the site and what needs to be done and the priorities, but always try to set some sort of roadmap and in that roadmap, you can track your activity because that can help you understand where you might have gone wrong or where you’ve done something that’s had a massive impact. If you’ve updated loads of pages and then a couple of months later, you see your rankings have spiked, your traffic and your revenues have really improved, then you might be able to track that back to a specific piece of activity you did. Or if you’ve done something that was a little bit risky, and everything has dropped, then there might be a reason for that. You can have a look at your roadmap to understand that. 

A roadmap is actually really easy. It’s just a Gantt chart of just the stuff you’re doing. It’s a chart with a list of activities and the week or the date that you’re doing it basically. That will help you keep track of what you’re doing so I would always, in your roadmap, have what’s in the pipeline, what’s in progress, what’s going to be completed, what’s in the backlog and try to spit that out by colors, for example, so that you can track where you are. Also indicate the date that specific changes were made because that will help you link it back to performance. Include the resource required – so who needs to be in that? If you need support from anyone for it then you can engage those people quite early on, rather than telling them at the last minute that you need help with something. Keep that priority column because often people forget about the priorities because you want to go and do the easiest piece of activity first, when the biggest priority piece of activity might be really hard to do but if you do that, you’re going to see the performance improve. Whereas if you carry on doing that real low priority stuff then it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to see those improvements.

Build a roadmap, keep updating that road map, and then you can track everything that you’re doing. If you split the roadmap by week or by month, however often you’re doing activity, then it can actually help you see and look back. So if you say, ‘I’ve been doing SEO for six months and I have not seen any improvement’ and then you look back at your road map and realize you only did two things that you said you were going to do, there’s probably a reason that you haven’t seen improvement because you haven’t done much. But if you’ve done loads and then you look back and all that stuff you did was just those quick wins and none of that high-impact work, then that’s probably where you’re going wrong. 

Brief summary

Obviously SEO is always changing – algorithm updates, what your competitors are doing – so your roadmap will be changing, but you should always set one at the start so that you can keep track of what you.

The key takeaways are obviously we need to track and report SEO, we need reports to explain the data, don’t focus on the vanity metrics, remember it’s a long-term strategy, make sure you learn to prioritise and, use a roadmap to help you keep track and stay focused. 


How do we know when algorithms change?

How will we know when algorithms change so we can react to it? If you keep up to date on what websites are saying – there’s quite a few SEO websites out there like search engine land – if you keep up to date on what they’re saying is important within SEO, then hopefully you should be able to preempt what algorithm updates are or Google will tell you. So if you were to Google ‘what’s important for ranking and SEO in 2021’, if you were to search ‘2021 how do I rank’, have a look there, write everything down, try and have a look. All these websites out there they’ve done all their research, they know what’s important. So understand what is important and then ideally you shouldn’t have to always react to algorithm changes. 

There’s an algorithm update that Google told us about last year, coming in May this year, which is about user experience and site speed. So your site should already be optimised for that and you should be working on it now rather than after it’s happened. The algorithm updates, they can sometimes be a bit of a shock but usually you can know the kind of way it’s going. I can tell you now Google is going the route of user experience on your website, trust signals, reputation – all of that is going to be super important so focus on that.  

How do you know if your site has a Google penalty?

Will you know if your site has a Google penalty? You will know if it has one, as long as you have Google search console set up. A Google penalty is where Google has manually looked at your site and said you’re doing something wrong. Either your site has a big security issue or you’ve been buying loads of backlinks and Google can see that something you’re doing is really manipulative. You will know if you’ve had a Google penalty, as long as you’ve got Google search console set up and you would get a notification. They’re quite rare, unless you’re doing something really bad, you probably won’t get one so I wouldn’t worry too much. The other type of penalty you can get is obviously an algorithmic penalty. That’s when there is an algorithm update, your rankings can drop and that’s because, for some reason, your site doesn’t fit with the new algorithm rules basically. That  doesn’t always take as long to recover from, but it depends what it is. So if you do see a big drop in your traffic, then find out why that is. It could have been because of an algorithm update and then you may need to have a look at how you recover from that update. 

Should I focus on my website or my Facebook page?

Should I focus on my website or Facebook company page? It depends on where you get your most business – that’s what’s really important to me. It’s going back to those end goals. I’ve got quite a few friends that are hairdressers and beauticians and all of their business comes through Facebook and Instagram, so they don’t have websites and they don’t need them. It’s about where you will get the most of your business. If you are a hairdresser and you do wedding hair and a lot of that comes through organic searches then you might need to optimise your website. Focus it back to where you’re going to see the most value and then decide what you need to do. Also, don’t forget that you can actually optimise a Facebook page from a SEO perspective. Facebook is also a search engine, people do search for things on Facebook so you can have a look at that. But if you think people are going to find you through Google, then optimise your website and your Google My Business page.

Google ads keywords

How do you think using keywords for SEO differs from Google ads keywords for boosting search rankings? Are there big benefits from either option? Keywords are important for both. They’re both important in different aspects. So from an SEO perspective and from a PPC perspective, keywords can be competitive. A keyword like ‘Easter eggs’ is hard from an SEO perspective, but it’ll also be hard from a PPC perspective because you’ll have all the bigger brands also bidding on that term from PPC. They’re both difficult. The thing with PPC is that it can be easier as the more money put into it, the more likely you might be able to perform for that keyword. You do have a good landing page as well, you can’t just spend a hundred grand on Easter eggs and perform well from PPC. You have to have the right content. That’s where it’s slightly different but whatever you’re doing from an SEO perspective should also help from a PPC perspective. Keywords are important for both ads and SEO but they’re a little bit more important from an SEO perspective in terms of your whole website. The key thing is making sure that the page that you’re trying to take people to for that keyword is optimised. Whereas SEO, there’s so much more to look at. There’s over like 200 ranking factors, whereas there’s not as many within paid. 

What are backlinks?

What are backlinks? Backlinks are the number of people or the number of other websites linking to your website. Even the number of shares that you have, for example, they count as a backlink. It’s the number of people that are basically giving a vote of confidence to your website.

Are backlinks the same as hyperlinks? Yes but obviously if you have a hyperlink in your own website that goes to our own website, that’s not a backlink. That’s just an internal link. But if on your website, you link to another company’s website then you’re giving them a backlink. 

Tips for improving content

Tips for improving content? You can’t beat a good editor going through the page texts before loading on a site. If you’re loading things on your site that have spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, all of that is bad for SEO as it doesn’t read well. Your content needs to read well. Have short sentences, short paragraphs and have a look online on how to make content readable for SEO. For example, it’s not just about optimising for keywords, it’s about optimising for readability.

Gantt chart or agile backlog?

What is an advantage to running your road map as a Gantt chart versus a more agile backlog? I would do either actually. I think an agile backlog is good as well as long as you’re actually working on each of those things. I think the advantage to having it as more of a project at the start is you can prioritise them all and see where things fit. Then you can also have that agile approach. Whatever works best for you, but just make sure that you’re prioritising by SEO impact rather than what you think is important. It’s about what’s important for SEO. 

Favourite SEO tool

If you could have only one tool or app to help with SEO which would it be, free or paid? I would say Ahrefs – that’s a paid tool. It’s really useful for keyword research, really useful for competitor analysis. There’s a content explorer option in there. It’s really good for rank tracking. It doesn’t cost too much money if you’ve just got one site on there. It increases for the number of websites and the number of users and things. SEMrush is also really useful. All the free tools are great but if you pay money you get more options. 

Best tools to learn Google search console

What are the best tools to learn Google search console effectively? Does Nettl offer anything on this? We don’t have specific training on search console, but that is a useful topic to consider for the future because we always talk about search console and analytics. Google does have their own training on it. I don’t know a specific course, but I would highly recommend having a look at YouTube tutorials and then also potentially a website called that has a lot of online training. Have a look at that website and see if they have specific tutorials on Google search console. All you need to do is learn the basics initially, and then you’ll work your way around it the more you do it. 

Can you use Google analytics retrospectively?

How can you use Google analytics retrospectively? If you set up in January, is it possible to see results from December? Does Google have the figures for a site even though you don’t? No. So if you’ve set up your analytics in January, Google won’t be able to show you metrics any earlier than that unfortunately. That’s why I’m telling you to set it up as soon as possible so that you can start tracking the results over time. The one thing you can do is in that tool called Ahrefs, you can put in a website and based on the website’s ranking positions and performance, it gives you an estimated organic traffic each month, and an estimated revenue, for example. So that could be quite useful but you have to set these tracking tools up in order to be able to have the metrics.

What is PPC?

What is PPC? PPC is pay per click. So that’s where when someone searches in Google or any other search engine and they see an advert at the top. It means that they’ve paid for that basically. 

What is Ahrefs?

What is Ahrefs? They’re both actually quite easy but you probably just need to understand the basics of what’s offered in there. Ahrefs has a rank tracker which tracks your rankings. You have to add keywords in order to track them. It has a content explorer where you can put in a URL and it can give you loads of information on that. You can learn these things just by trialing it. There probably is a free trial. I find it really useful, but you might need to spend more than the seven days free trial, for example, to really get value out of it. Because if you don’t know how to use it straight away until you start learning all the different things that you can do, you might not know how to use it properly within seven days but do as much as you can. Ahrefs also have lots of online training. I think it’s called Ahrefs academy and they’ll have training if you want to have a go with that tool.