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Superhero SEO Level of Effort vs. ‘Quick Wins’

Organic SEO Superhero

Photo Illustration © by Mike Valentine

When was the last time you were asked for a “Quick Wins Projects List“? What this amounts to in reality is “Let’s do the easy stuff first, so we look good quickly.” Everyone wants to see rapid results, but that should be discouraged with SEO projects.

SEO Superhero Analogy – Indulge Me Here
Imagine calling a superhero to fix a leaky faucet first before they are able to fly off to stop a villain from blowing up a dam that will flood the city! I’ve seen both large and small companies fail when they put off high impact SEO projects. Some take “optimization” to mean slow, incremental change. Big SEO stuff matters more – and should be done first. Superheros are needed in SEO, but they are most effectively employed on doing big amazing things that sometimes require leaping tall buildings to outwit evil competitors.

SEO Audit Project Prioritization Lists
Every SEO Audit results in a standard, priority ordered list of SEO projects to pursue. Every department will have different priorities when it comes to tackling their to-do’s on that list. So let’s first address who will be impacted by SEO project requests and quickly review each of their priorities. These priorities will remain constant:

  • C-Suite is always interested in results (traffic, conversion, ROI), preferably sooner rather than later, set expectations of standard organic SEO marination and follow through with slow cooking for full-flavored organic effect.
  • Product has scheduled time for each of the departments (below) and will want to fit SEO into that rotation where it will have least impact on timely delivery already prioritized & planned projects without disrupting them.
  • Content needs lead time to create or source great copywriters and will require keyword research and guidance on content emphasis for SEO projects which add new, or change existing on-page text.
  • Engineering runs on time spent and level of effort (LOE) estimates. They need full documentation of requirements along with project dependencies (completing work on other projects required first to implement SEO requested functionality).
  • Design will weigh in on any SEO feature that impacts visuals, like accordion content, endless scroll, effect on page spacing (breadcrumbs), underlined hyperlinks, bolded text, mobile vs. desktop views.
  • Marketing will focus on whether any SEO project has additional brand impact and whether those projects will effect paid search or social campaigns, affiliates, email or advertising.
  • Analytics needs to be incorporated to track conversion on new feature requests or monitor results for every significant SEO project click actions, traffic funnels and measure conversion to sales.

The #l item above is always convincing executive teams that SEO prioritization is going to return big results, with maximum ROI as stated above, but they are also going to ask that you re-prioritize your list. Without fail, they want those results now – so they will inevitably seek your “Low Hanging Fruit” list. Those things that will bring results with low level of effort projects, quick wins with immediate impact.

This is where LOE ROI is often confused with “easy” and “fast” (devotion of limited resources and time.) It’s routine to ask for two high-level-of-effort items on the tip-top of any SEO hit list, both of which will inevitably get pushed repeatedly to the bottom due to the perceived difficulty (resource intensive) and time required to implement them. It’s a battle to keep anyone focused on the bottom of the list, no matter how large the expected impact of the project.

Level of Effort SEO

Photo Illustration © Mike Valentine

SEO Level of Effort & Return on Investment – AKA SEO LOE & ROI
I‘ve addressed those core foundational SEO projects in another article here, so I won’t go into detail on them again – but I will emphasize the results of those high level of effort projects.Relaunch Success Those time-intensive, high Level of Effort SEO projects produced a startling 43% gain in search traffic to the entire section of the site that we implemented them on. The “Low Hanging Fruit” projects which were done first resulted in gains to a subset of important pages – but the total value was limited and overall traffic gains negligible.

Those “Quick Wins Projects” are faster than others, but in most circumstances won’t add up to anywhere near ROI gains that can reasonably be expected with the larger, slower, high LOE projects. After seeing this scenario play out repeatedly, I’m going to suggest that those often-requested quick wins can be fit into the schedule at nearly any time. Putting foundational SEO projects on hold until all the simpler, smaller projects are completed is dangerous and can result in never seeing significant growth in search traffic.

Results will be much larger, impact the business more and ultimately make everyone happier when the big stuff (High LOE) is tackled first and the small stuff (Quick Wins) sprinkled in when there is time for them – there is always time for the small stuff. That time should not be first.

Mike Valentine offers enterprise SEO consulting and start-up SEO to clients internationally.