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picture of two kids working on Monthly SEO maintenance

The What, Why & Who of Monthly SEO Maintenance

Web Development,  Website Maintenance

16 Apr, 2022

Monthly SEO Maintenance

You could probably list some benefits of SEO in your sleep, right?

Things like:

  • Better reach and brand visibility so new leads can find you
  • High SERP ranking so new leads can find you
  • Great site architecture and useful content so new leads are glad they found you…

Not exactly news. You’re probably investing in it already.

But what if we asked you about monthly SEO maintenance?

We get it: you really don’t have the time or, let’s face it, the will to figure it out yourself.

But monthly SEO maintenance is the only way you can keep track of your strategy and know what needs to change before you start feeling the consequences of SEO going wrong.

Investing in it timely can end up saving (and making) you a lot of money.

So let’s talk about how you’re gonna handle it without resorting to ill-advised DIY.

What is SEO Maintenance?

We know that SEO is a long-term strategy.

It takes a while to start working, it focuses on building site authority and industry credibility, and serves as a great initial touch point with your customers.

That means you don’t just do a thing once and wait for it to work, like letting the dough rest in the fridge.

SEO requires constant work. If it makes it easier to follow, you can view it like this:

The first part of SEO is crafting a strategy, setting up the tech parts, creating and distributing content, things like that. All the initial work you put in.

The second part of the story is SEO maintenance:

  • Regularly reviewing your SEO performance and ranking
  • Revisiting and optimizing existing content to reflect the newest data
  • Fixing broken links and other technical issues
  • Finding and using new keywords that match your topics, industry, expertise, etc.
  • Giving your meta titles and descriptions a makeover
  • Looking for new ways to be relatable, linkable, and useful to readers
  • Adjusting your approach based on your analytics and industry trends
  • Cross-checking it with general website maintenance and security (getting hacked is no bueno for SEO)

It’s essentially evaluating your performance, finding better ways to position and protect your brand, and getting the highest possible returns on your investment.

But seeing how SEO efforts take a while to start showing results, and the market is constantly on the move, “regular maintenance” is a vague term.

How can you tell whether your tactic missed the mark or the goalposts simply moved?

Is there such a thing as “regular enough” maintenance?

In our experience, a month is a good benchmark.

One week is too little time to see any changes, and one year is way too long to react.

Monthly SEO maintenance is the golden timeframe to repeat the checklist and make sure everything is right early enough to double down or pivot if you need to.

But even with regular reporting, it’s tricky enough to analyze the information and know what to do with it.

So we prepared a little something to help.

The SEO Maintenance Checklist – 5 Essential Tasks To Nurture Your Website

You’ll need these tasks done in any scenario whether you’re in eCommerce or professional services.

We’ll explain why and how (briefly, we know you’re busy).

But let’s just run through them real quick first, because we also know you’ll outsource them anyway and the details are just FYI if you’re interested:

  1. Local listings
  2. Link fixing
  3. Keyword research
  4. Regular SEO audits
  5. Site speed and metric tracking

Now let’s dig in.

Local listings

Listen up professional services! Local listings can help you rank high, but only if they’re accurate, regularly updated, and valuable with important info like:

  • Your phone number
  • Location
  • Open hours
  • The services you offer
  • Pricing, etc.

This will pop up when people search for companies like yours but “near me,” so if your focus is local, this is a must.

It’s not a super complex task. The “one job” here is to always be up to date so you avoid frustrated customers, lost credibility, and bad reviews.

Because otherwise, your SEO will follow.

Link fixing

Broken links are a big deal because they hinder your site authority.

Google crawlers don’t know what you tried to do but they can see it certainly didn’t work.

And people? They just get frustrated. Nobody likes getting their expectations up and then getting slapped by a 301 or 404:

Although they might like it more if the 404 is creative, like this one from Pixar:

404 page from Pixar Source

Fixing links is one of the most basic elements of monthly SEO maintenance plans.

Your links need to be regularly checked and updated, placed in a way that isn’t distracting, and as for 404s – leverage them!

You can use the opportunity to show some character and redirect your visitors to the next best thing.

And, pro tip: product out of stock? Don’t delete the page!

Use the opportunity to link to similar or related products so your customers resume the journey instantly and forget all about this little inconvenience.

Instead, you know, never forgiving you.

Regular SEO audits

Captain obvious here, but it’s important enough to repeat:

SEO calls for regular reporting.

The best SEO campaigns aren’t measured by the speed of their results. In fact, promising quick results can be a red flag. But we’ll get to that later.

For now, you need to know that this tactic will take months to show any results whatsoever.

But that’s exactly why you need to monitor your progress monthly.

You’ll gather important analytics and be able to tweak your approach right on time, then see what that gets you soon enough, too.

How do you do an SEO audit?

Honestly, you’ll need an agency to handle this part.

You can use a tool like Google Analytics to see your own fancy graphs, but then you need to decipher what it all means and how to proceed.

An experienced SEO specialist can take this off your hands and tell you the results in English, as well as advise you on your next steps.

Most companies underestimate the value of this service. Don’t be like most companies.

Keyword research

New opportunities keep appearing for companies willing to cater to their readers:

  • Questions to be answered
  • Complicated concepts simplified
  • Trends addressed
  • Tedious tasks made easy
  • Products reviewed and compared, etc.

Keeping your eyes open for any chance to swoop in and add value is part of the SEO game.

Whether or not you’re able to do this will depend on the types of keywords you’re trying to rank for and how well you match the user intent behind them.

For example, if they’re looking for general information but you’re trying to sell immediately, they’ll just leave.

You have to match the intent or pick a different keyword.

Long-tail, commercial keywords like “hypoallergenic washing detergent” are great for eCommerce.

For professional services, informative (“how-to”) and transactional (“best apps for android,” “top 10 brands”) keywords are usually a safe bet.

So how do you pick them?

You can research keywords using tools like Ahrefs or Moz and group related ones together in ClusterAI to create your topics, for instance.

Or… you guessed it. Leave it to experts.

Speed and metric tracking

Lastly, measuring your key KPIs (key performance indicators) is a sensible part of website maintenance in general. But also for ongoing SEO maintenance.

Why?

If your site takes ages to load, the most brilliant copy and content won’t save you, because nobody will wait long enough to read it.

A lot of people will bounce after three measly seconds and even less for eCommerce sites!

Scandalous.

But not really, since your competitors will meet those requirements if you won’t.

Other things you need to track as part of your monthly SEO package should ideally include:

  • Unique visitor number (to see how many people are finding you)
  • Traffic tracking (to determine how people are finding you)
  • User engagement metrics like CTR rates (to see if you’re “getting them”)

And yes, doing this more often is a great idea. But at the very least, do it as part of your monthly SEO maintenance.

And with that out of the way, it’s vetting time.

We’ll start with some green flags for your SEO maintenance checklist.

Finding the Perfect SEO Maintenance Package – 5 Things To Look For

While no two agencies do SEO maintenance the same way, there is overlap between the good ones.

The top SEO agencies use some tested and well-established best practices to make the most of their strategies in the long run.

Don’t have it in you to read all about them?

We got you.

Here’s a TL;DR version that you can save as a handy checklist or reminder for later:

SEO maintenance service What it entails Why it matters
1. Rank monitoring Regular performance reports on individual pieces of content, site pages, and overall ranking on the search engines. The sooner you know where you’re at, you can start clawing your way up to that prized first page.
2. Web performance tracking This is your general performance across devices, including your UX and UI, metric tracking, etc. Tells you how satisfied your users are and whether you’re hitting your monthly goals.
3. Building links Making sure everything works, your internal links are strategically placed and updated to include new content. It builds your site architecture by grouping similar content together, helping both crawlers and human users find what they want.
4. Existing content optimization Editing older content to match new best practices, add most relevant info, and ensure everything still works. It shows you’re looking out for your readers by giving them the most useful data and gets extra mileage out of old work.
5. Content building A content strategy that covers topic clusters relevant to your industry, expertise, products, readers, etc. Helpful for your audience. Also, Google favors grouped content that shows you’re an expert in a topic over individual one-off bits and bobs.

Okay, now for the same thing but better explained before we get to some red flags you don’t want to miss.

1. Rank monitoring

This is a long-term strategy so regular monitoring is an absolute must.

It’s never gonna be “done.”

Even if your ranking is solid for a while, there are too many sites competing with you for the spot, so consider this more like a sports competition where you have to win and defend your title rather than a one-and-done deal.

Everyone wants to reach that prized first page for a reason: only 0.78% of people actually visit and click on something from the second page.

Rank monitoring tells you how you’re moving up and down the ranks at large so you can do something about it without having to open a query for every single keyword.

Most SEO experts will use Google Analytics and similar tools to pull this info for your reports.

2. Website performance tracking

This is your site health.

We’re talking about your general performance across devices, load speed, UI, UX, the full package. How’s it going? Are users happy? Are you getting conversions?

Metric tracking and regular reporting is the only way you can know for sure.

This needs to happen often and especially as you’re introducing changes to your site – maybe a seasonal deal, new arrivals, or some sort of announcement so your visitors’ experience isn’t hindered.

Here’s a quick example from Lush, a company with a well-performing eCommerce site. They obviously worked on their mobile responsive design:

It’s all cute, fun, and scrolls super-smoothly until this one section that went unchecked:

example of bad responsive design

Jarring, isn’t it?

Especially because this seems to be an important section for them. It was probably added later so they assumed it would work just fine.

Monthly web performance tracking, kids!

3. Building links

Backlink generation is all we hear about. 58.1% of SEOs believe that quality backlinks have a major impact on ranking.

But if backlinks show your content is important to the outside world, internal links show which of your pages are most valuable.

They can be just as important for SEO because they help build your site architecture and make you crawlable to Google’s little minions.

Even better, your users can easily follow the breadcrumb trail without having to stop and think where to go next – but only if they work.

And almost half of all websites have broken links.

Don’t let it be you.

4. Optimizing existing content

Content optimization includes ensuring the tech side of things still works and keeping your info relevant and fresh so it’s always valuable for your readers.

It’s an integral part of any monthly SEO maintenance package.

Tweaking old content is cheaper than producing new stuff from scratch.

It saves you time, helps you rank, and increases traffic to your site. What’s not to like?

5. Content building

This means having a content creation plan, not just publishing news on your company – no offense, but everyone will prefer valuable and entertaining content over that.

Smart content building positions you a “topic expert” and not just your everyday tactless keyword stuffer.

So what’s there to strategize about over content?

  • Your goals
  • Target audience
  • Keyword research
  • Clustering
  • Content creation process
  • Distribution and optimization
  • Content velocity, etc.

You can try to handle this part for yourself but for fast and significant results, you need both quality and quantity.

Flying Cat Marketing, an SEO agency we think is pretty cool, talks about that frequently.

And they demonstrate the results in this case study:

We won’t go too much into detail here because that’s why you’re hiring experts, right?

Well, that’s how you can spot a good one.

SEO Red Flags – Watch Out for These Signs

Okay. We’ve got the green flags down.

But that won’t necessarily stop the plethora of fake gurus and snake oil salesmen out there from taking advantage of inexperienced or misguided business owners.

Be it on purpose using blackhat strategies, or by using untested, poor strategies and fleecing thousands of dollars from companies with very little results to show for it.

You don’t need that kind of problem.

So we won’t just stop at what makes an agency good.

Let’s talk about what makes them inadequate.

As always, your quick overview first:

  1. Promoting link quantity over quality
  2. Encouraging blackhat SEO tactics
  3. Guaranteeing #1 ranking on SERPs
  4. Irregular and/or inadequate analysis reports
  5. Promising instant results
  6. Offering only pre-packaged SEO solutions

Let’s unpack them.

Promoting link quantity over quality

Stuffing is a big no-no for SEO because it can make you look spammy and impair your ranking.

Focusing on quality backlinks and strategic internal link placement is the way to go.

Your links need to:

  • Make sense with the topic – e.g. you can link to related terms, products, services, but not totally random pages just for the sake of it
  • Have enough space between them so they don’t take up the entire screen and readers don’t accidentally click on the wrong one even on their phones
  • Not be misleading, like linking to two different pages using the same anchor words

When in doubt, remember their purpose: making the browsing experience smooth for your visitors.

This is what search engines want, too.

After all, that’s how they get their food on the table.

So if anyone comes at you promising results if you just stick enough links in your content, consider it as them doing you a favor by disqualifying themselves.

Encouraging blackhat SEO tactics

Like link schemes or link buying.

That’s not the way you want your audience to find you.

First of all, such links are random, and you don’t want just anyone to get to your site.

You want only your target audience there – the people who are primed to buy or learn from you.

“The more, the merrier” doesn’t have an unconditional application in the SEO context because only a fraction of those people will actually be ready and responsive to what you’re saying.

Second of all, your ranking will tank if you do this.

Blackhat SEO is a way to get penalised on Google for trying to cheat your way around their carefully maintained system.

So no SEO expert in their right mind would recommend it.

Guaranteeing #1 ranking on SERPs

Confidence is nice, but you know what’s nicer?

Being realistic.

The thing is, there are many factors that determine exactly how each of your content pieces or pages will perform on SERPs and they’re usually pretty complex to calculate.

You definitely can’t pin them down, and neither can your so-called SEO expert.

Even Google warns against trusting such claims!

A great SEO agency will be able to show you solid case studies and practices they’ve used to get great results, but they’ll never make promises they can’t keep.

Irregular and/or inadequate analysis reports

Why shouldn’t you see your performance on a steady monthly basis?

If a company doesn’t offer regular reporting and an analysis breakdown, it means they don’t really know what they’re doing but don’t want you to figure it out.

And that’s the best case scenario.

If they want to track things internally, you’re risking them changing something on your website without your knowledge or consent and getting your site blacklisted.

You may not have the time to think about every little detail, but you certainly can’t trust an agency that has something to hide.

Don’t waste your money if you can’t even see where it goes.

Promising instant results

Don’t wait on the edge of your seat and refresh it like Facebook notifications after you post a holiday photo – it doesn’t work like that.

SEO takes time.

Yeah, even if your chosen expert has a rocket emoji next to their name on LinkedIn.

Look, if you want quick results, nothing’s to stop you from pairing your SEO with other digital marketing techniques like PPC that work quickly.

In fact, such combos are usually a great idea!

You get the fast influx while building your content to captivate, educate and engage your visitors later on.

But monthly SEO maintenance, or any other type of SEO package deal, won’t cut it if you need immediate results.

Best to stay away from anyone who says otherwise.

Offering only pre-packaged SEO solutions

There are some universal best practices that great companies will follow. This is a given, because everyone has to adapt to Google’s rules.

We’re all dancing to the same song, so we all have to follow the same rhythm.

But that doesn’t mean your SEO journey will look exactly like another company’s.

You have your own goals, circumstances, target audience, starting point, budget…we could go on.

If you’re an eCommerce brand with 500 products to sell in apparel, you won’t need exactly the same thing as a company that provides three complex services.

Customization is a big deal for SEO.

And no amount of “standard protocol” tasks that you don’t even understand or need will make up for any missing main elements like the five we listed earlier.

Treat it like food labels: if you don’t even understand most of the ingredients, maybe reconsider your purchase.

Transparent and flexible deals for the win.

Conclusion: Leave Your Monthly SEO Maintenance to The Experts

SEO is huge. It takes a long time. It can get complicated.

And let’s be honest: nobody’s got time to maintain it other than the people who do it for a living.

Not to brag too much, but State Creative has built quite a portfolio as a WordPress and Drupal web design agency.

Developing and maintaining sites is our jam, so you can trust we know our SEO maintenance and best practices.

Want us to look at your site? Get in touch!

No pressure though. You can also just keep reading and make sure you don’t make any web design mistakes in the meantime.

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