Note from MOGmartin: this is a guest post by Jon Quinton (@jonquinton1 on twitter) of Go Search Marketing.
About Jon: I run my own small consulting company ‘Go Search Marketing’, and work with a variation of clients from local business through to niche ecommerce sites.
Creating The Right SEO Strategy
Coming up with an effective SEO strategy and ongoing plan is key to the success of your website. When I first delved into the world of SEO I was definitely guilty of just ‘jumping in’ and not spending too much time planning. This was down to experimenting with various techniques more than anything else, and it soon became apparent that strategising my approach was vital.
I thought it might make a useful and interesting blog post to share a few things that I do to create a plan specific to the website in question. I personally feel that there is definitely an element of gut feeling and intuition involved, but all of this comes based on data and research. There are also many more things I check than can be discussed in one single post, but here are a few things that I always make sure I cover.
What Does ‘Strategy’ Mean To Me?
Whenever I start an SEO strategy there a few things that I always keep asking myself; what are the needs and goals of the website in question, and what’s going on in the market?
To me, an SEO plan should be answer the needs of the website in question and the market it relates to.
Aim: Find a direction
With any project, this is always my first step. Until I conduct even the most basic amount of keyword research, I feel somewhat in the dark. I usually start off by simply entering a load of relevant keywords into Google’s keyword tool to try and get an overall idea of what’s going on. This is a really easy and effective way of comparing a large set of keywords and trying to suss out a direction to start going in. This information all gets exported into a spreadsheet for use later down the line.
After a while of doing this I’ll start to build up an idea of certain ‘hotspots’ and opportunities to start looking into further. I’ve recently started using SEOgadgets keyword tool to get more of a ‘visualised’ overview, and also to start sorting the keywords into categories. Not only is this really useful for me to see, it’s also a great way to start organising your data into a presentable and understandable format for clients.
To really get into the ‘nitty gritty’ I’ll use the SEOmoz keyword difficulty tool. This allows me to start judging how tricky it’s going to be to rank for certain keywords. I’m constantly comparing different keywords against each other in an effort to keep building an even stronger picture of the market, from which I can then base my recommendations.
Aim: Get the ideas flowing
Looking at websites that are currently enjoying success in your market is a great way of getting some ideas going. I’m not saying copy other people’s work, more look at what they are doing for a bit of inspiration. On another note, it’s vital to know what the competitions doing in order to compete effectively, and keep up with them in the long run.
I usually look into how well optimised their sites are, how active are they in social media, where are their links coming from, are their links natural or have they been manually link building? This can all be very useful stuff when you’re trying to prioritise your SEO tasks.
SEOmoz’s linkscape tool comes is very useful for this, and I’ll normally make use of it by looking through competitors back links to try and see if I can spot opportunities or areas that I should probably be focusing on. Even without a particular goal in mind, just manually looking through these links will create a really good image of what’s going on. It might be quite a laborious task, but in my mind it’s well worth the time.
Aim: Unearthing any potential problems
Every project is different, and every job will present its own unique challenges and potential issues. However, even if someone contacts me asking for help with link building only, I will always insist on a site audit even if it’s at a basic level. There’s no point in going out spending time getting great links into a website only to find nothing happens because it’s an absolute mess. I believe that would be a slight disservice to the client, I’m sure you’ll agree!
(Xenu’s Link Sleuth is a great way of delving into a website)
Depending on what arises from looking into the website, the first step in any SEO plan of mine is to get the website into a good shape. The aim of doing a site audit is to find out if there are any SEO issues, and also to find out what can be improved. From this I can then create an easy to follow task sheet with a prioritised list of recommendations.
Going forwards, you will also be able to effectively uncover areas for future development and build that into your long term plan.
Aim: Time to get realistic
Perhaps this should have been my first point, because there’s no point in putting together the most detailed and world conquering SEO plan if the client can’t afford to action any of it. To provide real value to the client, any strategy has to be realistic. One of the first things I’ll ask a prospective client is how much they can afford to spend on SEO. With that in mind I can then create a plan that can actually be put into action.
If money’s tight then I might start to suggest that the client themselves take on various tasks, but the most important thing for me in this instance is to prioritise the most important tasks.
On the flip side to this, I can’t afford to work for free and I don’t want to end up doing way more work than I’m getting paid to do. This is where having a solid strategy not only helps the client and the overall success of the campaign, it should also serve to protect you and make it clear what can be expected from you.
I hope you’ve found this post useful, please leave some comments to discuss things further or feel free to get in touch with a tweet or two: @jonquinton1