How to pick up SEO after you’ve neglected your site

The new year has just begun. Maybe you’ve promised yourself that you’re going to really make an effort in SEO this year. Perhaps you’ve not been giving your site the proper SEO love it deserves and over time your rankings have been going down. Or maybe you’ve noticed a decrease in organic traffic and want to get back in the SEO game.

Don’t panic: we’ve all been there! Let’s get to work and give your site so much SEO love that your rankings will skyrocket! So where should you start? How do you make sure your website gets SEO fit again? In this post, I’ll give you practical tips on how to pick up your SEO strategy after you’ve been neglecting the SEO of your site for a while.

Why you should take action if you’ve neglected the SEO of your site

I am probably stating the obvious here, but SEO matters. The best place to hide a corpse is on the second page of Google, right? You want to rank high because you want visitors coming to your website. I get that! And Yoast SEO actually takes care of a lot of things, even when you’re not doing anything else. So, your SEO wasn’t entirely neglected if you had Yoast SEO running on it. However, in order to really drive traffic to your site, you need to put in some work regularly. Keeping that up can be hard. And you probably have a million other things to do as well. Try not to feel bad about your lack of SEO effort, and let’s give that site of yours some proper SEO love!

Four phases to get your site back in SEO shape!

My recipe to get back in tiptop SEO shape has four phases. In the first phase, you need to do some thinking. You need to use both your brain as well as some data (Google Analytics / Google Search Console) to get that thinking done. After the first phase, you’ll need to do some maintenance. If you’ve been neglecting your site’s SEO, you’ll need to take a few hours to clean up the internal linking of your site and get your technical SEO back in shape. Phase 3 is all about planning: what things do you want to tackle in order to improve the SEO of your site even more? And in phase 4 you’ll make SEO part of your routine (again). Let’s deep dive into all of these phases!

Phase 1: Thinking!

Take some time to think about your current audience

Before jumping into SEO action mode, take a little bit of time to think about your audience. This may seem easy enough, but knowing your audience is actually pretty hard. Who is your audience? Who are the people you want to attract to your website? What do they have in common? Perhaps they’re all teachers or gardeners, depending on what your site is about. At Yoast, our audience consists of people that have a website and want to attract traffic to that site. Don’t just think about your audience in general terms (age, gender, education). Try to really understand what drives them to your site. A few other questions you should ask yourself:

  • What does your audience know about your website and brand?
  • What does your audience want to read, do or buy on your site?
  • With what search intent are people entering your website?
  • Has you audience changed since you last worked on your SEO?
  • Has your business changed?

Asking and answering these questions will help you to focus on the most important things. Are you ranking with the right content? Is your content focussed on the right audience? If you have thought about all these things, it will make it easier to start improving your site!

Asses where the low-hanging fruit hangs!

Before taking action on SEO, just take a look at your Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If you haven’t looked at your traffic and how your site is doing for a while, there’s probably a lot of room for improvement. Check out what pages bring in the most money and which articles get you the most traffic. Could you improve these even further? Don’t forget to check out the trends in Google Analytics either. If a certain page did well in the past and is not attracting much traffic now, it might need some SEO love.

But, also make sure to check out which articles people spend the most time on, and which blog posts have a lot of comments. Those articles are the ones that your audience likes and interacts with! Check to see how these pages are doing in terms of traffic and their position in the search results. Could you improve the SEO of these pages? Maybe tweak those pages and give them an overdose of SEO love in order to rank higher?

With the new Wincher integration in Yoast SEO, you can easily track which keywords are performing well. You can also see how your site has been doing over time. That’ll give you a lot of valuable information on which articles may need updating.

Make a list of posts or pages that you feel are easy fixes. Just updating the content, adding some internal links, or tweaking a few things could make a difference and drive some extra traffic to your site.

Don’t forget to keep doing keyword research

Are you still focussing on the right keywords? Or has the search behavior of your audience changed? If you haven’t done keyword research in a while, you should make sure to do that again. As you’re just starting up your SEO game again, maybe do a quick peak alongside your Google Analytics and use Semrush to see whether you’re still focussing on the right terms.

Phase 2: Maintenance

Do some general content SEO maintenance: SEO workouts

Are you ranking with the articles you want to rank with? Is your internal linking structure up to date? If you haven’t paid any attention to your SEO lately, there’s a big chance that your internal linking needs a major update. In Yoast SEO Premium, you can find two practical workouts that’ll help you to get your internal linking structure back in shape. You can click through these workouts and solve some major problems with just a bit of your time. Investing a couple of hours will be enough to get your internal linking structure back in tip-top shape.

With the cornerstone content workout, you’ll be able to choose which articles are your most important ones. The ones you want to rank with. After that, the workout helps you to make sure that your internal linking structure is helping you to rank with exactly those articles. The orphaned content workout will help you to detect all your articles that do not have any internal links going to them. Perhaps you can add a few links to that page to make it findable? Or perhaps these should be removed (and redirected) from your site? The workout will help you decide and even suggest a few relevant internal links, to help you solve all of your orphaned content problems.

orphaned content workout step one
The first step in the orphaned content workout in Yoast SEO Premium

In my opinion, doing the SEO workouts in Yoast SEO is the best way to get started with your content SEO after you’ve been neglecting your site for a while. The workouts will help you to really clean up your site. After you’ve cleaned up, there’s room to create new content and to improve your existing content!

Do some general technical maintenance

Yoast SEO takes care of a whole lot of technical stuff for you. You don’t have to worry about all of that. However, if you’ve really been neglecting your SEO for a while, you should make sure to do some checks:

Get your site speed up to par

Check how your site’s speed is doing. Site speed is a ranking factor so the speed of your site should be top-notch. If you’ve been out of the SEO game for a while, make sure to check whether or not your site is still fast enough. Read all about how to measure site speed and how to get your site to load faster (if necessary) in our blog post on site speed!

Check and fix those 404s

You should actually be checking your 404s regularly. So, if you haven’t done that for some time, make sure to check whether or not there are any broken links on your page. Google hates those! And so does your audience! You can easily fix your broken links with the redirect manager in Yoast SEO. Read all about how to check for 404 errors and how to solve them in our blog post about 404s.

Phase 3: Planning

You probably have a million ideas on what you want to improve. So it’s important to make a plan. A doable plan. Something that you’ll be able to stick to. How much time are you willing to spend on doing SEO, could you maybe spare an hour a week? Plan your SEO activities for the next couple of months. You’ve done your thinking in the first phase, so you know which things need to be done. Make sure to start with that low-hanging fruit. That’ll give you quick results and gets you motivated to keep spreading that SEO love. In making your plan, make sure to alternate tasks you really like with tasks that don’t get you that excited (but just need to be done). Also, make sure to reserve some time to do some more keyword research!

Phase 4: Back to that SEO routine

The last phase to get back in the SEO game never really ends. When you’ve made a plan and you stick to it, you’ll never leave this phase. Make sure to work on your SEO regularly. Alternate between tasks. SEO is a combination of checking and tracking on the one hand and executing on the other hand. The following tasks should all become part of your routine:

Checking and tracking

  • checking your 404s
  • assessing your site speed
  • checking your internal linking structure
  • doing keyword research
  • analyzing your data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console


  • updating old content
  • writing new content
  • doing workouts in Yoast SEO
  • redirecting 404s
  • improving site speed

We’ve actually created a monthly workout schedule (PDF) that you can use to stay on top of your SEO. Of course, this is just a guideline so feel free to spend more or less time on the tasks mentioned. But it can help you stay motivated by checking off what you’ve done so far!

Love your site and keep doing SEO

I often joke and say that SEO stands for Seriously Effortful Optimization. And that isn’t untrue. We try our very best to build a plugin that automatically takes care of most aspects. But in order to really stand out in the search engines, you still need to put in some work. And to be honest, if you do it regularly, it’s not that much work. But starting over after you’ve neglected your SEO for a while, takes a bit of hard work at first! Just remember that your site really deserves that kind of love. Let’s spread that SEO love

Read more: How to measure the success of your content SEO strategy »

SEO love series

Coming up next!

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