Search engine optimization has changed significantly in recent years. This also means work for SEO managers and those responsible for SEO. In this post I would like to give an overview of the most important tasks of an SEO manager in tactical and strategic search engine optimization. At the end of the article I provide a list of the most important SEO tasks with over 100 selected further reading tips for download.
Table of contents
1 The challenges for an SEO manager
2 SEO task: ensure accessibility
3 SEO task: Snippet optimization, page titles & descriptions
4 SEO task: Optimizing page speed and loading times
5 SEO task: content optimization
6 SEO task: Keyword research & analysis
7 SEO task: Optimizing mobile presentation
8 SEO measure 7: Link building or link building
9 SEO measure 8: Optimizing broken links
10 SEO task: Optimizing internal links and information architecture
11 SEO task: Remove worthless content / URLs
12 SEO task: Avoiding duplicate content
13 SEO task: Optimizing user behaviour
14 SEO task: Strategic search engine optimization
15 What are the most important SEO tasks?
16 Closing words: What an SEO manager shouldn’t do
17 CatLog of SEO measures including a list of sources
The challenges for an SEO manager
Probably the biggest challenge of an SEO manager both in the agency and in-house is to act proactively as an interface between management, IT, web design, editorial, marketing, PR and graphics. It is always important to keep the different interests of these stakeholders in mind. As an SEO you are always dependent on the cooperation of colleagues from the various specialist departments, because a large part of the implementation is not done by the SEO manager himself.
SEO managers spend a large part of their work on analyses and the formulation of recommendations for action for the various “implementers”. If you don’t have these parties on your side, there is a problem. This requires diplomacy and empathy. If one gives the feeling of penetrating too far into the territory of the respective area, one must expect resistance.
Many SEOs that I got to know are lone fighters. Such types will always have a hard time finding their way through the corporate hierarchy and politics.
In-house SEO managers in particular who are new to a company are initially busy identifying, educating and training interest groups and building bridges.
In my experience, the following tasks of an SEO manager are the most important. In addition, I have listed these in the various “converters”.
SEO task: ensure accessibility
The accessibility of a website or a document is the basic requirement for indexing, as well as satisfying the user’s intention. For this reason, websites should always be accessible and output a 200 or 301 status code if necessary. Services such as Cloudflare guarantee 100% availability even with short server downtimes.
Implementation: Accessibility is ensured by IT.
SEO task: Snippet optimization, page titles & descriptions
The snippet or meta information, page title and description are the teasers for our content in search engines. They create an expectation that the related content should fulfil. Therefore it is important to design the page title and description in an appealing way.
- every URL should have a page title or title
- each URL should have a different / unique page title
- the keyword, which the URL primarily wants to rank, should be in the page title
- The main keyword should be in the first position of the title
- the title should not exceed 55 characters or 600 pixels wide
- the meta description should not exceed 139 characters or a width of approx. 500 pixels
- The page title and the meta description should be optimized for the user (offer added value, encourage them to click)
Snippet optimization also includes certain types of labelling based on structured data, e.g. for ratings, tables, product information such as Prices.
Implementation: Meta information can be maintained in the current content management system of SEOs. For the implementation of structured data, IT and / or web design must be included. In the event of bottlenecks, the SEO himself can mark up the structured data in the Search Console with the mark-up tool.
SEO task: Optimizing page speed and loading times
In the course of the increasingly important role of mobile devices, Google confirmed a few years ago that the loading speed is a ranking factor. But apparently not a particularly large one, as our own studies have shown. More on this in the article Page Speed: How important are loading times as a ranking factor for SEO?
But how much effort should you put in if you want to make your website faster? Here you have to ask yourself the first question for whom I want to do the effort. For the search engines or the ranking or so that the user feels comfortable on the website?
I would always recommend primarily optimizing the loading speed for the user.
However, there are some simple levers that can have a big effect on a website’s performance. Before you deal with CSS sprites or similar complex measures of page speed optimization you should take care of the following things, which are often the biggest brakes:
- Image compression
- Browser caching
- Unnecessary queries e.g. Reduce to the bare minimum via Java Script from external sources
Implementation: The graphics have to be brought on board for the image compression. IT and web design are responsible for all further measures.
SEO task: content optimization
I see the main task of SEOs in terms of content in content optimization ..
Content optimization is about optimizing content in terms of
WDF * IDF / TF-IDF
The aim is to improve the relevance of the document itself via the content component for users as search engines.
Implementation: The content optimization can be carried out by the SEOs. However, it makes more sense to train the editors accordingly and thus enable them to create search engine-friendly content themselves.
Excursus: SEO vs. Content marketing
I see the topic of content marketing more as an area of corporate communication and not directly as a task for SEOs. Search engine optimizers should nevertheless pay attention to search engines and user-friendly design of the content and should therefore be involved in the process of content conception and production. Nevertheless, I see the content design more in the hands of the communication professionals. More on this in the article Responsibility: Who does this content marketing now? .
Does producing an elaborate user-oriented blog post or publishing a guidebook have to be found on Google as the main goal? Many SEOs would answer this question with “yes”. I would say no. For me, producing and publishing content is marketing about content. In addition, we produce the content, as all SEOs assert, for users and not for search engines. Right?
Why this is not SEO for me but corporate communication or marketing, I have already explained in detail in Content Marketing Isn’t Link Building or SEO. Perhaps again the overview of the short, medium and long-term content marketing goals:
SEO task: Keyword research & analysis
Keyword research and keyword analysis should always be carried out for pull content (more about pull content and other types of content) before content production. This lays the foundation for good visibility of the content.
The aim of keyword research is to identify search terms / search terms that are entered by my target group (s) in search engines and that are relevant to my business model.
The keyword analysis is about the analysis of the first search results page for the researched keywords
Additional displayed results from the other vertical indices (Universal Search)
Search intention of the keywords (more about search intention)
Customer journey phase of search terms
Competitive strength in the relevant search terms
As part of our SEO strategy concepts at Augeas, we supplement the keyword research and analysis with topic research in which we research questions of the target group (s) in order to answer them in the content.
Implementation: This area of responsibility is one of the few for which the SEO manager is solely responsible.
SEO task: optimize mobile presentation
According to the Consumer Barometer Study 2017, over 50% of users worldwide access the Internet via mobile devices. In Germany it is now 73%.
Most often, these users access search engines, social media and videos via their smartphones. Accordingly, you should put a special focus on the mobile-friendliness of your own website.
There are several ways to create mobile-friendly websites.
Responsive web design
Own mobile version of the website with own URLs
Google itself and we as an agency recommend the first option, as the effort and possible pitfalls are minimized by a responsive website.
The most common problems when using websites on mobile devices are
too long loading times
too small font
Links and other navigation elements that are difficult to use on the displays of mobile devices.
Resources blocked by the robots.txt such as CSS, Java Script, Ajax and images.
Use of mobile-unfriendly technologies such as Flash e.g. for videos.
Pop-ups or other banners that cover the actual content and are difficult to close.
To check the mobile friendliness of a website, tools such as by Google to test the mobile friendliness of their own website.
Implementation: In this task, the SEO manager has little to do with the exception of a few small analyses and corresponding recommendations for action. The implementation takes place primarily through web design or IT.
SEO measure 7: Link building or link building
Link building is a more tactical SEO measure. Link building is all about scaled backlink building via owned links, self-placed links, paid links and broken link building. Earned links are part of strategic link building.
Link building plays an important role on two levels.
On the one hand it is about the passing on of PageRank and Trust of the linked domains. Links act like recommendations in the real world. The more trustworthy a recommending or referring source is, the more valuable the backlink or recommendation is.
The number of different linked domains, the so-called domain popularity, primarily plays a role here. Less the number of links per se (link popularity).
The second level is the thematic relationship level. Links also always represent relationships between the documents and their subjects depicted there. Transferred to semantics or graph theory, links are the edges between nodes or entities.
Implementation: Here the SEO manager once again primarily takes on an advisory role. Depending on whether you opt for active, scalable link building or organic link building via content marketing. In the “clean” second variant, the SEO manager accompanies PR and (content) marketing in their campaigns or strategies.
SEO Measure 8: Optimizing Broken Links
As already mentioned, external backlinks are an important ranking factor. Therefore, there should be a special focus on internal and external links. By deleting URLs, external and internal links can occasionally run out of steam. When clicking on these broken links, the user then does not see the content or usually receives a 404 error page. This is bad for the users as well as for the search engine bots.
In addition, in the case of broken links, the link juice or PageRank of the linked page is no longer inherited. These pages are also reported as 404 errors in the Search Console. 404 error pages with incoming external and internal links should be forwarded to thematically appropriate URLs using the status code 301.
You should therefore regularly use your own website with backlink tools such as ahref for the external links or on page crawlers such as Check Screaming Frog for the internal links after broken links.
Implementation: The CMS used is again decisive here. Insofar as the SEO manager can set up redirecting certain URLs himself, this is self-sufficient in the implementation. If the IT has to be switched on, only the preparatory analyses and forwarding concept remain.
SEO task: Optimization of the internal linking and information architecture
The optimization of the internal linking, the navigation structure and the information architecture are the most important tasks for the semantic SEO in addition to the link building. There are also important tasks to improve the user guidance and usability of the website.
With internal linking, it is important to show Google and other search engines that content is provided within the domain via an information structure that is semantically and according to user expectations. This should also make semantic core documents clearly recognizable.
The better a core document but also a complete domain is in a semantic relationship to other semantically related documents, the more relevant the document itself is. Incidentally, this includes not only incoming links, but also outgoing ones.
References from the core document to other semantically related documents within the domain can also strengthen the authority of the entire domain in the respective ontology / subject area. So the more I write about a topic and the more holistically you describe or look at topics within your own website, the better. Whether you do this on a single detailed document or on different URLs within a domain, I don’t think it’s that important. In my opinion this is only a question of user friendliness or personal taste.
More on this topic in the article Finding semantic topics: How do you identify semantically related keywords?
In addition to optimizing the linking, it is also about ensuring the consistency of the link texts and their target pages. Keywords and their synonyms should always be linked to the same target page. If this is not the case, the uniqueness is missing.
Implementation: The preparatory analyses of the internal linking lie with the SEO manager. Whether the implementation of the recommendations for action is regulated by the SEO manager, by the editorial staff or partially automated via scripts must be decided individually.
SEO task: removing worthless content / URLs
A website is a dynamic construct that lives from being supplemented with new content. Because of this, confusing content monsters often arise over the years.
Due to the spread of content marketing as a communication tool, many companies accumulate a large amount of content on their own websites over time, which makes it easy to lose track.
This makes it difficult for Google to focus on the really important content and can slow down the crawling and (re) indexing of this.
That is why you should regularly carry out content audits in order to free your website from superfluous content.
You should ask yourself the following questions:
Is the content still relevant for me and the users or can it be deleted?
Can you combine different content on the same topic?
Should the content be revised to create additional added value?
Implementation: Here the SEO manager has to work closely with the editorial team, UX & CRO, PR and marketing. These departments are usually responsible for content and ultimately have to decide which content still makes sense from the point of view of corporate communication.
SEO task: Avoiding duplicate content
Duplicate content can become a ranking problem. Not because Google punishes this, as it often falsely claims, but because duplicate or similar content makes it difficult for search engines to identify the most relevant content / documents within a domain. In addition, duplicate content on very large websites can lead to crawling barriers and thus also indexing problems. Therefore, duplicate or similar content and page titles should be avoided and the focus per topic or associated keywords should always be clear.
More about duplicate content and solutions to avoid duplicate content in the detailed article Duplicate Content: Definition and Solutions for Duplicate Content.
Implementation: Here the SEO manager has to work closely with the content manager. In order to implement measures relating to crawling and indexing such as adapting the meta-robots information, robots.txt commands or canonical tags, the recommendations go to IT.
SEO task: Optimizing user behaviour
Optimizing user behaviour includes all measures that can improve common user signals. E.g.
Loading times optimization
End device optimization
Implementation: Here the SEO manager should work closely with the UX and CRO managers. They are the professionals. If there is no person responsible for this, the SEO manager should proactively devote himself to the topic. The implementation is then often done by IT and / or web design.
Excursus: Are user signals a ranking factor?
Optimizing user behaviour has been seen as the holy SEO grail for a while. This was put into perspective by various statements from Google. According to Google, user signals are not a direct ranking factor that is used to evaluate individual websites. Here is an example of a statement by John Müller from Google.
SEO task: Strategic search engine optimization
Strategic search engine optimization is about establishing the domain as a digital image of the corporate brand and developing an authority in one or more subject areas (see also The digital brand / authority: meaning for SEO & online marketing and key figures). Ever since Google introduced the Hummingbird Algorithm and the Knowledge Graph, Google has tried to work on the basis of semantics. More on this in the articles Semantic Optimization at Google: From Entity to Brand and Semantic Search: Google now pays attention to inner values.
Domain optimization tasks include the following:
Ontology assignment (thematic classification)
Development of semantic subject worlds
Domain relevance optimization
Entity formation is primarily about generating signals for Google that allow the company name or brand to be recognized as an entity and the domain as a digital image of an entity.
Ontology assignment (thematic classification)
The ontology assignment is about your own domain as an image of the entity contextually e.g. to be classified in industries, subject areas … This is generated on the one hand via off page signals and the content on the website itself.
Development of semantic subject worlds
The structure of semantic subject worlds makes it easier for Google to classify domains and documents into certain subject areas. In addition, the degree of Hollistics in these theme worlds increases the authority of a domain. The following activities help to plan semantic subject areas:
Keyword and topic research in preparation for content production
Determination of the search intention per search term
Semantic concept analysis
Creation of keyword and topic mappings
Conception and implementation of the internal linking
The relevance optimization takes place primarily off-page, i.e. external to the domain. It is used to make the domain a “recommended” authority through external signals. This is done primarily through backlinks, co-occurrences of brand and terms of the respective topic and the promotion of certain search patterns. The entity relevance is determined by Google as part of the Knowledge Graph.
What are the most important SEO tasks?
Which are the most important SEO tasks in the strategic and tactical area, it remains to speculate about it. If you believe Google, the most important ranking signals are content, links and rank brain. Rank brain cannot be influenced directly. This is how content and links stay. That’s why I would definitely recommend content optimization and link building as the first to-do in the tactical area. Furthermore, attention should be paid to avoiding duplicate content, topic or keyword cannibalization and optimization of page titles. This means that operators of small and medium-sized websites should have largely done their SEO homework in the tactical area.
The larger the websites, the more important the technical search engine optimization for indexing and crawling control becomes. For most websites, however, I do not think these measures are so crucial to the war, unless they are to avoid duplicate content. The crawling budget for most websites is sufficient so that the relevant content can be indexed.
In strategic search engine optimization, the most important tasks are the optimization of the internal linking and information structure as well as the establishment of an authority or brand on the domain level. More on this in the article The digital brand / authority: Importance for SEO & online marketing.
If you ask me what the most important tasks to improve the rankings will be in the future, my answer is as follows:
Keyword and topic research and analysis in preparation for content production
Creation of content according to the search intention
Optimization of page titles and descriptions
Creation of semantic core documents / semantic optimization of content
Optimization of the navigation and information structure of the website
In addition, you should ask good (content) marketing, PR, social media and CRO specialists to work together to improve the most important key figures for authority and brand strength.
Number of new visitors
Search volume for brand terms
Search volume of navigation-oriented search terms related to the domain and brand
Social spread, social buzz, visibility on social networks
Another important characteristic of brands as well as authorities is customer loyalty and loyalty. Loyalty metrics can be:
average length of stay
Share of returning visitors
Probably the most important characteristic of a brand and authority is the respect and trust shown in it, which can be assessed using the following external reputation indicators:
Co-occurrences and co-citations
Brand names and links
Another sign of trust in a brand or website are indicators that show the degree of interaction. The following engagement indicators can be used for this:
further interactions with the website such as downloads, comments …
Relationship with other brands, authorities and influencers
Number of page views (page impressions)
A free brand monitoring dashboard for Google Analytics and more on the topic here in the article The digital brand / authority: Importance for SEO & online marketing and key figures (including brand monitoring dashboard).
That is my opinion and does not agree on all points with the opinion of other SEOs / online marketers. Therefore, below the reference to the annual ranking factor studies by MOZ and Search metrics.
Closing words: What an SEO manager shouldn’t do
Activities that contribute to strengthening the brand and authority at the domain level are largely not measures that are primarily used for the ranking. Therefore, an SEO manager should hold back and only provide advice. It’s just not his core competency. Just like the creation of content.
The topic of backlinks could be an exception. Organic backlinks are the result of good (content) marketing, not SEO. However, the scalability in terms of number and quality of the backlinks is missing here. To ensure this, it is of course still possible to purchase backlinks for a marketing campaign in a targeted, inorganic way. (I leave further thoughts on this to everyone …) From this moment on it is again a measure of search engine optimization, since I select these link sources according to certain SEO metrics and my primary goal is not marketing, but improving the rankings.
If we stick the SEO label to all activities that can improve the ranking, one gets entangled in the dilution of one’s own competence, creates confusion in terms of responsibilities and ignites trench warfare with neighbouring industries such as PR, marketing, conversion optimization …
The confusion in the marketing industry is already big enough. Publications like “Why CRO is Better SEO …” only fuel this confusion. In the PR industry, too, products such as SEO-PR have been advertised for a long time, which is simply nonsense.
I know this attack on their own territory has been a nuisance to most SEOs in the past. This is exactly how a PR person or marketer feels when suddenly SEOs interfere in their previous area of responsibility and these services are touted as search engine optimization.
An SEO manager doesn’t like to penetrate other areas like an ax in the forest, but rather to protect the interests of the respective interest groups. A change of perspective or a bird’s eye view is good here.
In my opinion, many cooks spoil the broth and everyone should contribute to improving the findability in the search engines in their field and not mess around in the areas of responsibility of other better trained professionals … The search engine rankings are no longer in the sole hands of the SEOs. (more about branding & the new Google ranking: Why SEO is no longer enough …)
SEO measures cat logs including a list of sources
After the heavy fare, I finally provide a free catalog of measures for the most important SEO tasks, which has been supplemented with over 100 useful information sources from the German and English-speaking SEO industry. I have compiled over 50 useful sources and assigned them to the tasks. i.a. are there