The Kondo Method for SEO

by Grant Oyster 1st March 2019 on Search Engine Land

There are ways to leverage KonMari’s basic principles to improve SEO. But more importantly, what can she use to improve her own website’s organic performance?

There is nothing like a Netflix original series to jettison someone to the front of everyone’s social feeds – to make them an overnight sensation. Marie Kondo released The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing in 2011. In 2015, she was one of Time’s “100 most influential people.” However, with the release of her new Netflix series in 2019, this happened:

If she wasn’t already, she is now a household name.

This begs a question (or two). With KonMari improving our personal lives, how can we leverage her basic principles to improve our SEO? More importantly, what takeaways can Marie Kondo use to improve her own organic performance?

Applying KonMari to SEO

It isn’t much of a stretch to apply some of Kondo’s basic principles to an SEO lifestyle. Take The 6 Basic Rules of Tidying Up for instance:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first.
  4. Tidy by category, not by location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

We’ve modified these a bit to help put together an impactful roadmap for all SEO leaders and for (should anyone working on social listening for Marie Kondo decide to pass these on!).

Hopefully, those following along at home will learn an SEO-organizational tip or two!

1. Commit yourself to tidying up (your site)

It isn’t enough to push out four different wireframes and user experiences over the last four years (1,2,3,4). To ensure that a site sees organic lift, it takes time, effort and an investment in SEO resources. It takes commitment in other areas: in content creation and outreach, for example.

Commit time to a proper SEO audit and to implementing corrections to these found errors. Commit resources to tools to ensure you’re receiving actionable data. And – if you don’t currently have the talent or capacity yourself – commit to hiring SEO experts to ensure success.

2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle (once your site reaches its full potential)

As SEOs, we work in a performance-based field, so your compensation — whether you are client-side or affiliate — is likely tied to your organic performance.

Channel the ideal lifestyle and your ambitions into your success. This clear vision will continue to motivate you to stay on track when pursuing recommendations, when you receive pushback, or to spend the extra time following up on outreach emails when you haven’t heard back.

Use this strategy to prioritize your organic strategy. For example, knowing what keywords would drive your ideal lifestyle, target and rank those first.

Given factors such as current rank, keyword difficulty, search volume, and search intent, I’d focus on the following keyword/keyword phrases first for

  • the life-changing magic of tidying up
  • spark joy
  • Furoshiki
  • Japanese organizational book
  • tidying
  • productivity tips

This list, which includes a good mixture of branded and generic, should lead to significant growth in revenue and brand awareness.

3. Finish discarding (thin and low-quality content) first

Before you start the process of tidying up and sparking joy, begin with a discard process.

  1. First, discard old content. Take the opportunity to evaluate your site and do some content pruning.
  2. Second, discard irrelevant items from your robots.txt. Make sure that you aren’t blocking items that need to be accessed by search engine crawlers.
  3. Third, discard irrelevant pages from your sitemap.xml.
  4. Lastly, discard old items from search indexes. Find old subdomains, subfolders, or PDFs that are likely hanging around.

As far as, it is a pretty thin site; however, there are a few items I’d recommend discarding first:

  • The site is currently indexing the /tag/ and /author/ pages
  • There is duplicative content that needs canonicals

Discarding these pages from search indexes would be a good purging process and makes the next steps significantly easier.

4. Tidy by category, not by location (in the SERPS)

Now that all the items that need to be discarded are handled, it is important to tidy by category, not by where you want to be in the SERPs.

It is easy to hone in on those keywords that we picked out in Step 2 and the specific pages tied to them, and spend a lot of time optimizing them from top to bottom. However, I’ve always found that improving the quality of a site, holistically, lends to better overall performance.

Unless you are dealing with a site that is large enough that you must break up your workload over a lengthy amount of time, I recommend making enhancements by category.

Based on the current site — and a cursory audit — I’d break it down the following way:

  • Optimize copy based on keyword research:
    • Meta titles.
    • Meta descriptions (many are missing).
    • Header elements (H1 and H2s [most are missing]).
    • Image alt text.
  • While those are being processed through QA and legal, perform a technical audit:
    • This site has a few 404s.
    • There are no internal links to the site’s main product pages.
    • Open Graph tags aren’t implemented or complete.
    • Two subdomains aren’t using Gzip compression.

Breaking the site down by category makes it more manageable to deliver recommendations and for clients to implement impactful changes to the site.

5. Follow the right order (as you prioritize SEO efforts)

This should be second nature, but with a twist. Not only do you have to use your knowledge about what you know has the most significant impact – regarding ranking factor weights – but you must weigh what will be implemented most efficiently.

While on an even playing field, I always have a roadmap that I follow, knowing a client’s limitations can be the difference between instant results and banging your head against the wall.

6. Ask yourself if it “sparks joy”… (Yes, an increase in organic performance always “sparks joy”)

This is a no-brainer.

Once you’ve started to make the recommendation, are you seeing results? In other words, when you log into your rank tracker and analytics dashboards…do they “spark joy?”

If not, quit spending time on those tactics and get back to the basics. If you’re spending most of your time creating content and you aren’t seeing results (sparking joy), then pause that strategy, re-evaluate, and move on to the next tactic.

This isn’t to say that content creation isn’t important; however, you might find that you’re just creating further cannibalization issues, or the site has technical issues that are keeping content from performing – no matter how great it is.

Organizational structure for SEO

Even if you don’t follow a six-step structure like this one, it is important to have an organizational plan as you carry out your SEO efforts. As the field of SEO continues to grow and requires input from other teams, we can no longer rely on the “find a thing, fix a thing” model of the past.

Audits, processes, organization — these set up our clients for success and they set us up for success. Without proper organization, it is impossible to take on new projects or new clients.

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