Creating and implementing a full SEO strategy can be a lengthy process. It often starts out with a detailed website health check and background research, which (when done properly) can take up a lot of time. This can seem counter-productive, as it delays carrying out changes and fixes that can actually start making a difference to your overall site performance.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way, as there are often a number of ‘low-hanging fruits’ that can potentially help your website to benefit from some quick wins with minimal effort.
We have put a list together of the top 5 low-hanging fruits – hopefully there’s something in there for everyone. Be sure to let us know of any easy wins that you think deserve to be in the list!
To begin with, for anyone who’s new to SEO, the very first thing you should do is to make sure that you have set up a Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools account and use them! These will provide you with valuable data, recommendations, and help you to identify issues with your website.
1. Always choose your preferred domain
This low-hanging fruit could really boost your link juice! The outside world may be linking to your site using both www. and non www. versions of your URLs, but in the eyes of the search engines, these are effectively different pages, so the value from these links could be diluted
I’m assuming that you have a Google Webmaster Tools account, but if you don’t then this is in fact the number 1 low-hanging fruit! For details on how to get started and what you can get out of it, we have a great post on how to set up a webmaster tools account as well as a wealth of Webmaster Tools resources to get you started.
www. vs non-www.
First, decide how you would prefer your domain to appear in the search results (for example, http://www.example.com or http:// example.com). Then open your Webmaster Tools account, click on the ‘Settings’ gear icon on the right-hand side, then select ‘Site Settings’. Now, in the ‘Preferred domain’ section, choose how you want your URL to be displayed.
This will force all inbound links to redirect to your preferred domain, allowing all of your link juice to flow to the right page.
It is also recommended that you use a 301 redirect to forward any traffic heading to your non-preferred domain to the correct version, thus ensuring that your visitors (and search engines) will only ever see your preferred domain.
2. Clear crawl errors in Google Webmaster tools
Google is less likely to rank a website highly if a large number of the pages that appear in its results simply direct visitors to error pages. These error pages also leak value, as they are usually caused by URLs that have not been redirected properly. As such, any value that they may have been built up in the past – through content and links – is lost, rather than redirected to an equivalent, or similar page on the website.
To find out if your website has any errors, open your Webmaster Tools account, then select ‘Crawl’, then ‘Crawl Errors’. Use the drop-down on the right to view up to 500 errors at a time, and then navigate through the pages if there are more.
There may be several different types of errors, including ‘Server errors’ and ‘Soft 404s’, in which case you will need to click the relevant boxes above the graph in order to see them.
Fixing the crawl errors
Fixing these errors can be as simple as setting up 301 redirects to point the old broken URLs to the new pages on your website. The list can be downloaded as a CSV (handy if there are lots of them), by clicking the download button at the top of the list.
Once fixed, you can remove the errors from the list, either by clicking on each link and selecting ‘Mark as fixed’; or by selecting several at a time, by ticking one or more boxes beside the errors (or all by ticking the box at the top), then clicking the red ‘MARK AS FIXED’ button.
3. A little effort can go a long way
This one requires a bit of knowledge in Google Analytics, so once again, if you don’t have an account set up then get one, as this is another place to get some extremely useful stats, figures and information about the performance of your website.
You may be just missing out on some highly-searched terms, with your website appearing on page 2 of Google without you even being aware of it, due to a very small trickle of traffic coming in from them.
However, with a bit of research you can quickly uncover some of these missed opportunities. By generating a list of these keywords, you can quickly start to look at giving them a little push, by optimising the landing pages making them more relevant.
In Analytics, open your website and navigate to Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. Now click the ‘advanced’ link (next to the search box) and add the following filters:
Include Average Position Greater than 10
Include Average Position Less than 19
You may only be interested in non-brand keywords, in which case you can add another filter to exclude queries containing your brand name.
This will retrieve all keywords that your website appears against on page 2 of Google (between position 11 and 20).
Now filter the results by impressions to get an idea of how popular each of these keywords are, and put together a list that you think you can benefit the most from. You should also check the positions in Google (make sure your search results are not personalised) along with the landing pages.
Now you know which keywords to optimise around and the pages that Google associates them to on your site, you can get to work!
4. Link reclamation
Throughout the life of a website, things change, from the look and feel, to page URLs or even the domain name itself. Link reclamation is the process of reclaiming links that were added to third party websites in the past, that now link to dead pages on your website, due to URLs not being redirected to their new locations. By identifying these broken links, you can set up redirects from the old pages to the new, and therefore pass on the value from the linking source that would otherwise have been lost.
For a step-by-step guide on how to salvage valuable link juice, check out our detailed post on link reclamation.
5. Long-tail keyword optimisation
Keyword research is an important process for any online marketing strategy, but nowadays there is a great deal of competition in most online industries, so aiming for the most competitive keywords can seem like an impossible task.
However, not everybody chooses the most obvious search terms when performing a search, so this is where the long-tail keywords can help. According to Moz, around 70% of all searches are long tail, which leaves a huge amount of often low competition keywords to optimise for.
Long tail searches are generally more specific, and tend to be used by people who are further along in the buying process. This means that you can be more specific with the page that you serve to users, helping them to find exactly what they are looking for, which will allow you to generate high quality converting traffic.
There are a range of tools that can be used to spot these ‘diamonds in the rough’, from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner (formally the Google AdWords Keyword Tool), which is very useful for finding keyword ideas, while also showing how competitive they are and how much estimated traffic they may provide, as well as SEMrush, Google Webmaster Tools (under search traffic > search queries) and Analytics, to name a just a handful.
Hopefully that gives you all something to take away and get your teeth into; helping you or your client benefit from a few quick wins while your deeper online marketing strategy takes shape.
If you know of any other ‘low-hanging fruits’ that you think deserve a mention, please feel free to add your comment or find me on Twitter @SamGooch – who knows, I may even feature them in Part 2!”