Interactive optimization and content maintenance start when:
- The SEO technical fundamentals are well optimized (Crawlable, indexable website with a SEO friendly CMS)
- Content creation and on page optimization are completed for top target keywords
- There is enough data in Google Search Console (preferably 13 months or more) to conduct content performance analysis
The reason I call this stage also interactive optimization is that it can start only few months (1-3 months) after doing the first wave of SEO where search engines will complete processing the new changes so we can evaluate if our SEO work :
- Generates the planned results (e.g. top ranking for target keywords and more traffic from different variations of keywords)
- Needs more tweaking (e.g. there is a progress but we did not hit the expected results, content enhancement will be required to improve performance)
- Creates new opportunities (e.g. some unexpected keywords are ranking for content that is not optimized for them, new content will be created to target them)
Evaluating the results of an SEO project:
There are too many ways to evaluate the success of a SEO project but for the sake of interactive optimization the best way to evaluate success is the ranking improvements for the target keywords before and after the project, if most of the target keywords reached the desired ranking (top 5 spots in the SERPs for example) then it is missions accomplished we just need to monitor those keywords and move on to another project, on the other hand if the ranking did not reach the desired results we need to reassess the situation and try different actions, the most popular actions to try in this case are:
- Enhance the content and optimize on-page elements (it is very important to check the top ranking websites for the target keywords and better their content and on-page work)
- Increase the number of inbound links pointing to the content/pages where the target keywords did not achieve the desired ranking (could be done using the website navigation or the blog contextual links), make sure to use a keyword rich anchor text while doing that.
- Increase the number of external links pointing to the content/pages where the target keywords did not achieve the desired ranking
- Keep working on the website overall authority and branding
If all controllable SEO elements (content, on-page, technical SEO and internal linking) are optimized well but the desired ranking for the some target keywords is still not achieved then most likely the authority level required to rank for this keyword is not enough for this website/domain, going after a less competitive keyword or a different variation (less competitive) of the same keyword is recommended in this case.
Exploring New SEO Opportunities:
To start this process we need a keyword mapping document preferably in excel that lists all the keywords the website ranks for, the URL, Search volume, impressions, CTR. Google Search Console is the only place where you can find all this data, SEMrush report also includes the majority of this data (using both is recommended as some data like answer box and local pack are not available easily in GSC). Once this document is available you need to create 7 categories for those keywords:
- Keywords that rank well and they have a good CTR (just monitor them)
- Keywords that rank well and they have a low CTR (do on SERP optimization for them)
- Keywords that do not rank well and they are the target keywords for that landing page (you need to apply the recommend actions listed in the previous section)
- Keywords that you did not plan to target but search engines find your content relevant to them, in most cases the landing page will not be able to target them while keeping the page optimized for the existing target keywords, those keywords will be marked as content gaps
- Keywords that trigger a local 3 pack (those will be used to optimize Google My Business/GMB profile)
- Keywords that trigger an answer box or any other featured snippet (featured snippets optimization is recommended if they rank at the top of the first page)
- Knowledge based keywords like when, what, where, how type of keywords (those will be used in the blog calendar)
Based on performance and priorities a new SEO project must be created to handle the new available findings in each category.
Time does not always work well for SEO, after few years working on a website few things will happen:
- Search engines may change their algorithms and guidelines in a way that can impact negatively ranking and traffic
- Content can expire, not all content is evergreen
- Even for evergreen content the bar will be risen in some cases by other websites that enhanced/improved their content (e.g. adding media files like videos), this will result in ranking drop for less maintained content
Monitoring content performance and reacting quickly to red flags will be key to retain and improve organic search engine traffic. Thankfully the new version of GSC with some crawling tools have made content monitoring easier, what do we need to monitor?
- Keywords and pages that are losing traffic and ranking year over year (you can monitor that month over month but you need to mind seasonality), finding the reason behind that decline will decide next actions (e.g. if the content has expired then refresh the content)
- Pages that are not getting any impressions (those are normally pages with thin content or very old content that you need to improve, remove or redirect)
Interactive SEO optimization is an endless task especially for large websites and it is the main reason for hiring an in-house SEO specialist