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It is the holiday season again, and you know what that means… the year is almost over and it’s time to start preparing our SEO strategies for next year!

Along with eggnog frappuccinos, cooler weather, and people putting Christmas lights up (way too early), the end of the year signifies a time for reflection – and this rings true for SEO as well.

As your current SEO strategy winds down, now is the time to position your site for a successful Q1. Specifically, if your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition and manual outreach, the end of the year is the perfect time to shift some of your efforts to other areas – response rates to outreach are traditionally lower in November and December as people are away from their emails on holiday vacations.

I want to share some of the ways you can use this “downtime” to invest in strategies that will lay the groundwork for a successful start to next year.

Prioritizing the future

First off, I am in no way saying you should abandon your current link building strategy – backlinks are just as valuable in December as they are in March. 

However, you should know website owners (the people who would link to you) are typically less responsive during the holidays and your time is better spent on activities that will prepare your site for links in the future.

Rather than making a desperate push to squeeze the last bit of ROI out of this year, I suggest investing in long-term initiatives that will pay dividends down the road. These initiatives include:

  • Competitive analysis and review
  • Content planning and creation
  • And auditing technical and onpage SEO issues.

Optimize your end-of-year SEO efforts by prioritizing activities that will impact the long-term future of your website.

Competitive analysis and review

As the year comes to a close, it’s a great time to check in on competitors and review what they’ve been up to in terms of search.

A good place to start is with your competitors’ content, analyzing which pages are helping them earn organic visitors. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush make it easy to compile a list of the top pages on competitor sites. Review these pages to determine if it would be viable or necessary to create similar pages on your own site. During your review, consider:

  • Is this topic relevant to my audience?
  • Do I already have an existing page that covers this topic?
  • What type of traffic would come from ranking for this term (top, middle, bottom)?
  • Do I have the resources and time to invest in creating a page that will compete?

It’s important to ask these questions rather than simply copying your competitors – not all top competitor pages will make sense for your site, audience and goals.

You can also use these tools to track keyword movement for your competitors over the past year. Comparing this data with your own site’s performance can help you identify areas where the competition might be overtaking you. 

SEO isn’t just about earning new keyword rankings and sources of organic traffic. Search results are always changing, and if you don’t defend your rankings you will lose them. Keeping an eye on competitor keyword growth will help you spot potential threats before they become losses. If you see competitors making gains in areas where you’re slipping, consider:

  • Updating your existing page with fresh content and more depth
  • Optimizing onpage factors
  • Reviewing internal linking opportunities
  • Manual promotion for external backlinks

Whether you uncover new opportunities or identify potential problems, reviewing competitor strategies will provide valuable insight, and the end of the year is an ideal time to conduct this analysis.

Content planning and creation

Along with analyzing competitor content strategies, the end of the year provides an opportunity to review your own content initiatives.

The start of a new year is always hectic, and it’s easy too quickly fall behind your editorial calendar with everything else going on. Instead, I suggest you take advantage of the slow(er) time at the end of the year to begin planning your editorial calendar and get ahead of schedule for the coming year. 

Of course, the holidays are a critical sales time for many businesses and creating seasonal content might be a priority for you. However, if you want this type of content to be visible during the holidays, most of that work needs to be done long before the holiday season is upon us.

Instead, by leveraging insight from your competitor analysis, you can prioritize future content marketing activities — such as refreshing and updating existing pages, repurposing content to new formats, and creating new pages — to complete the most impactful tasks first. Plotting everything out and creating deadlines before the craziness of the new year starts will prevent important initiatives from inevitably slipping through the cracks.

Furthermore, you can spend this time creating content and building a queue of content to launch steadily throughout the coming months. As a content creator myself, I can tell you how much more effective it is to work ahead of schedule rather than fighting to meet deadlines.

If you have the time and resources available in Q4, allocating those resources to content planning and creation is optimal.

Audit technical and onpage SEO issues

Finally, take some time at the end of the year to audit your website’s technical and onpage SEO.

Unfortunately, technical improvements and fixes are often the first items to be put on the backburner when bandwidth gets tight. So, if you’re considering making a late link building push or finally getting around to making those technical fixes you’ve been putting off, I recommend investing your time into fixing technical issues.

Some common issues that creep up over time include:

  • Broken images and links
  • Redirect chains
  • 404 and other status errors
  • Duplicate content
  • Missing alt text
  • Etc.

Cleaning up these issues will help improve the overall search performance of your site.

Most of these issues will be uncovered through a sitewide audit, with a tool like Screaming Frog, but you should also take this time to review SEO issues at the page level.

As mentioned before, there are small-scale onpage optimizations that you can make to your top pages to fend off new competitor pages in the SERPs. These optimizations include:

  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness improvements.
  • Transcriptions for multimedia content.
  • Increased keyword focus and header optimizations.
  • Schema markup and optimized formats for SERP features (snippets, knowledge box, video results, etc.)

These optimizations can coincide perfectly with updates and refreshes to content for the new year, and they can often be the difference between a position or two in the search results.

Conclusion

The end of the year can be a slow time, particularly for link acquisition, with holidays and vacations meaning people are away from their offices. However, there are still plenty of other SEO tasks you can work on to finish the year strong and set your site up for future success.

To review, these activities include:

  • Competitive analysis and review
  • Content planning and creation
  • And auditing technical and onpage SEO issues.

Instead of getting another out of office reply, utilize this time of year to prepare your website and brand to hit the ground running in the coming year.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power. Along with his column here on Search Engine Land, Andrew also writes about SEO and link building for the Page One Power blog. When he’s not reading or writing about SEO, you’ll find him cheering on his favorite professional teams and supporting his alma mater the University of Idaho.

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