There are a lot of factors that determine your search rank for various queries. If you read Moz’s comprehensive report on search ranking factors, you might be pretty intimidated. There are onsite factors, like title tags and domain features, ongoing factors, like the provision of new content and new links, and offsite factors, such as guest posts and social shares. All of these things together culminate in your visibility in search results.
For a marketer with a limited budget, limited resources, or a limited attention span (or some blend of the three), this is both intimidating and frustrating. It might be impossible for you to dedicate full and proper attention to every area of SEO, but you still want to see the best possible results for your brand. So if you could only choose one thing to do, what would it be? What’s the most important priority in getting a site ranked?
There are simply too many small factors active here for me to be comprehensive and list them all. Instead, I’m going to sketch out the most important factors for building higher ranks:
First, I’ll address your biggest priority from the outset—getting your high level onsite factors in order. These include, but are not limited to:
This is your highest priority, because as you can see, if you don’t accomplish this, Google might not even be able to see your site (let alone include you in its future ranks). Without these tasks accomplished, you have virtually no hope of ranking. Fortunately, though there is an ongoing management component for new pages or other changes, this is a one-and-done deal. Once you get your site to a good “foundation” point, this priority can be considered complete.
Once all your high level onsite changes are complete, your next biggest priority is the ongoing component—content. Ongoing content is more important than any other ongoing strategy not just because it continually builds up your core site and adds more content to index, but also because it influences other ranking factors. For example, more content means more inbound links, more social shares, and maybe even more positive local reviews. A good enough content strategy can theoretically replace most of the other individual tactics you’d have to use—just keep your focus on quality over quantity.
I know it’s cheating to list two biggest priorities, especially since one of those priorities also consists of many smaller tasks and tactics. Still, this is what is most important for an ongoing SEO strategy. Without a solid foundation on your domain, you won’t see much progress from your ongoing content. Without ongoing content, your optimized domain will never generate momentum on its own. But with a solid foundation and ongoing content strategy in place, you should start to see meaningful results. The other stuff—manual link building, social optimization, local citation building, etc.—can wait until you have more time or resources to dedicate.