It’s the ideal SEO scenario: you rank for that keyword you promised everyone you would get in the top 10 this quarter and it’s driving traffic and growth for the business.

You did it.

Time to go have a beer and cash those sweet SEO checks. Right?

No.

You never win SEO.

This is both good (job stability) and bad (mental health).

But if you stay on top of your game, you can build a sustainable program that helps drive growth and exponential growth over time.

This article covers how to formulate a general approach to defending your position at the top of the mountain, and then I’ll dig into three scenarios you’ll have to prepare to deal with once you get there.

Defend your moat

I call successful SEO keyword performance “building a moat” because of SEO’s unique nature — once you get to the castle, it’s tough for competitors to just move in on your territory.

Getting to that point means you’ve invested lots of time and effort into building trust and equity with both Google and the searchers who find your site. It’s different than with paid media, where you can just increase your budget to get momentum.

Once you’ve built your moat, success can be self-perpetuating – a higher position means more clicks and more authority that you can leverage to strengthen your position.

Getting into the top few positions on Google for a particular keyword can be parlayed into related content, different types of content (series, podcasts, webinars), targeted digital PR outreach and even a Reddit AMA for your CEO.

A spot at the top signals authority, which entices users to visit your links and share your content more frequently (and the cycle continues).

You’ve also established something that works, whether it’s a high-performing directory where you can keep adding content or a product page whose style and structure can be replicated for other products. Doubling down on these successes helps keep momentum going.

The important point here is that you’ve built more than traffic when you achieve a strong ranking; you’ve built clout. And having a plan to wield that clout is a key factor in maintaining – and even improving – that ranking.

Dig deeper: 3 steps to mastering the right indicators for lasting SEO results

3 scenarios that will tank your SEO ‘wins’

Even with a great strategy for defending your moat, your work isn’t done. You’ll need to plan for three fairly common scenarios, which, left unaddressed, could tank either your ranking or your job security.

1. You get complacent

Rest on your laurels for a month or so and see what happens. Between new or newly focused competitors, algorithm changes and SERP changes (AI overviews, people!), you need to be ready to pivot to maintain your position.

Not to mention, you probably still have plenty of opportunity to capitalize on the equity you’ve built. Make sure you’re working with your paid search, social, email and PR teams to share insights and help double down on what’s working to keep the flywheel turning.

Talk to your product teams about ways to incorporate product updates or new product launches into your strategy to ride the coattails of your winning keywords.

Always stay in tune with larger business goals to make sure you’re using your SEO equity to target the KPIs that matter most to the executive team.

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2. You’re hit with a rebrand or site changes

Rebranding and/or URL changes happen, and usually for good reason. Products get discontinued, the CEO wants a different name to accommodate a new market, etc. This will have an adverse effect on your rankings; no two ways about it. So, how do you mitigate the impact?

Above all, be clear with your client or management that the decision will impact SEO rankings and engagement no matter how comprehensive your adjustments are.

You’ll be busy enough trying to preserve traffic without having to defend your numbers at the same time and everyone involved in the decision should be aware of the unintended consequences before they make a final call.

As for SEO adjustments, I take a maximalist approach and try to preserve all the language and keywords possible.

For instance, if a product is being discontinued and we need to redirect the product page to a new product page, I ask if we can rewrite that new destination page with the language that worked on the old one. If that won’t work, ideate another piece of content for the site with similar language and keywords so you don’t lose equity completely.

You also need a comprehensive approach to site redirects and replacing/updating internal links, whether it’s for one product page or an entire site.

3. Traffic isn’t converting

You might be pulling in huge traffic numbers and lots of year-over-year growth, but if the traffic isn’t converting, your boss might have a bone to pick. What do you do?

  • Test CRO on the page itself. You may find easy ways to make quick gains in first-party data collection, lead generation, or even product sales.
  • Make sure you’re building a retargeting pool of people who reach your site. Without cookies, that’s about to get a lot more complicated, but tracking alternatives should be in the works with your analytics team. (If not, that’s a bigger problem than infrequent SEO conversions.)
  • Develop proxy metrics to show the value of this content if it’s not naturally designed to convert – say, something at the very top of the funnel. Proxy metrics might include brand search, a general lift in other channels and how you’re ranking against direct competitors for the content.

Sustaining SEO success

Achieving a strong keyword ranking is hard – so it might be disheartening to be reminded that getting there doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Keep your most important business KPIs as your North Star, leverage the equity you’ve built for all you’ve got and stay on top of the SEO landscape as it shifts, and you’ll have plenty of occasions to crack open a beer with your colleagues.

Dig deeper: SEO KPIs: Embracing user-centric metrics

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

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