HOW TO PRIORITISE SEO AUDIT RECOMMENDATIONS
Next up in my deep-dive on all things SEO Audits is what to do with prioritising the recommendations. A good SEO audit will have already done this for you, but a bad one – and I’ve seen plenty of bad ones – decide that providing recommendations where you start at A and work through till Z is an appropriate course of action. Why? I don't know.
If however, you've got an audit and you're happy with its delivery this is how I would approach it when it comes to planning what recommendations to get implemented first.
Have a read of this if you need a little more detail about what an SEO audit should look like: What is an SEO Audit (and other common questions)?. Then it's onto how to present your results.
Pre-planning your priorities
What you’re about to undertake is no easy feat but before you begin here’s some things to keep in mind:
There is no ‘right’ answer for what recommendations should be completed first – or in other words you can’t get this wrong. Every recommendation made in an audit should end up having some positive impact on the performance of a site
The likelihood is you won’t ever be able to ‘finish’ the audit and get every item ticked off the list –as so many others things get in the way. Some of the things may not even make sense to complete. So you may not be able to score 100% completion on your Trello checklist
It would be useful to have a bunch of other skills to make your audit a success. Read 4 non-technical skills for SEO Audits here
Planning your priorities
Let's start prioritising. Our goal is to take each recommendation from your audit and give it a priority using a score from 1 to 5.
1 is the highest priority – something that is absolutely critical to the business
5 is the lowest priority – something you could do but really don't have to
You can look at an items priority in isolation (I’ve written how to do that below) but an items priority can often move higher or lower according to other actions on the list. It all depends. So feel free to alter what goes where as you work through your prioritisation.
The politics of priorities
What we're really looking for as top priority items are changes which give website the biggest boost in the shortest amount of time.
Ideally, your Priority 1 items are fast, easy, cheap and impactful.
The reason for doing this isn't just because you want results from your SEO investment. It's that being able to show a positive impact early on keeps people happy. It gives you the figures to show your boss, who shows them to their boss, which means people in an organisation who can often be doubtful of SEO start to see the value.
That means you:
Win more time to see longer term results via SEO before people become impatient
Win more confidence from folks who can sign off budgets giving you the £££ for things you need
Win more credibility that SEO is a useful marketing channel for your business, helping to boost its reputation and buy-in in the long term
It's politics (unfortunately), but tactically choosing which recommendations to get done first can impact the internal success of your SEO in the long term.
Prioritising SEO Audit recommendations
Here’s 6 of the key things I consider when approaching prioritising your SEO audit recommendations. The things that flash through my mind when working on an audit are:
1. How does fixing item help contribute to our business goals?
You know what your website is there to achieve and what targets are in place for it. Yet, altering different parts of a website will have different outcomes for your SEO.
Example: Let’s take alt-text. You have 750+ images which are missing it. How much of a priority is this?
If you work on a fashion e-commerce website which relies heavily on image search traffic to drive sales than this is going to make fixing the alt-text a higher priority. Let’s compare this a website which offers free legal advice and has 750+ missing alt-text stock images on their blog. Doing it here will be less of a priority. Prioritise the recommendations which have the biggest and most relevant business impact.
2. How big an impact could this recommendation have?
Different elements on a website carry different weights in determining your rankings so by fixing the 'more important’ elements first you can hope to see a quicker, potentially more impactful change in your rankings. How much weight they carry though is anyone’s guess. This is highly subjective – which is why it’s important to speak to an SEO expert who can use their experience to tell you what items could have a greater impact.
Example: Let’s take 20 poorly optimised title tags versus 20 broken external links. Which is more important?
If there is 20 of one and 20 of another it could look like both of these items are as important as each other. However, based on my experience title tags have a much greater weight than the broken external links so I would look at fixing these first. Because of that, the title tags are a higher priority.
3. How much time would it take to complete this task internally?
This is where you'll likely need to ask other people for their input. Sure, you may be able to make the fix yourself, but there are plenty of other changes to a website which need other skills. Think copywriters, web developers and designers. Ask them for an estimate for how long it would take to make a change.
Is there available resource internally for this? If not, that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t work on it. You probably should. But there’s potentially other easier, quicker and as we've already seen higher impact items that you could complete first while you get their time signed off in the background.
Example: There’s an issue with the setup of some of the canonical tags in a specific part of the website pointing to the wrong location. Fixing it can only be completed by a web developer. However, the web developer has quoted 25+ hours of work to make it happen – resource which you don’t have access to internally. Does the time influence how much of a priority it is?
In this case if there’s other easier quicker items that can be done then focus on these. This makes this a lower priority item.
4. How much would it cost to complete a task externally?
If you don’t have the resource internally then you have an additional hurdle of finding a suitable contractor or freelancer outside of the business to help. This brings money into the equation – money which you may not have the budget for.
Example: Let’s take the same scenario as above this time. You need your canonical tags fixing and have found a freelance web dev who to help. His estimate though for fixing it is £500+VAT. Does the money influence how much of a priority it is?
If you don’t have available budget then it’s probably a lower priority. If you have a generous marketing budget then maybe it’s higher. This will feed into your decisions when it comes to setting an SEO budget for the year.
5. When can the task actually be completed?
Next up is our calendars? You know how easy it is for other people you work with to tell you it’ll be done next week and you’re still waiting next month. Even if you have the resource or the budget allocated is it still as much of a priority if you have to wait many months for completion?
Example: You need content and you need technical fixes. Both carry equal weight how much of an impact they have. The content team can start straight away, the developers can book you in 3 months from now. Naturally, starting on content creation takes a higher priority.
6. How many people need to be involved?
Finally, bigger tasks require more people and that means more layers of sign off, more meetings and generally a slower, main painful process to get things implemented.
Example: You could do with improving your category page copy for a range of services on a website for insurance. However, for this you need involvement from copywriters, the underwriters, your manager and compliance to create and sign off anything uploaded. It’s important but could take longer than expected. Is it more of a priority or less?
You should know the limitations of your business, in this instance, it would be worth doing, but something to work on in the background while you focus on other high priority items up front.
At the end of this particular exercise you should have a list of prioritised recommendations, sometimes long, sometimes not so long all neatly labelled from 1-5. With that you can use it as your official checklist to start working with the copywriters, the developers and your wider marketing team to make change happen.