Starting Your SEO Strategy

In 2012, a Google survey found that 20% of Americans knew the term “SEO.” Last year, a new survey found that the number had jumped to 23%. That’s a lot of people if we count them up, but it’s not a lot of progress by percentage.

Still, SEO continues to provide the highest ROI among marketing efforts over the long run, and business owners and marketing directors increasingly want to have a piece of that pie.

How can you get started with your SEO strategy?

Figure out where you are right now.

Are you one of the 25% or more of businesses that have no website at all? You might assume that your current SEO strategy status is zero. In fact, while you can’t optimize a website that doesn’t exist, you may have some foundations built that you will be able to make good use of. Your social media platforms, business directory listings, online press mentions and so on already serve as citations for your business. Once you build your website, you can add links at your social media accounts and request links from websites that already list or mention your company. This gives you a good boost when you launch.

If you already have a website, you can analyze your current online presence. When we create SEO strategy documents for clients, we use a range of information sources, including the client’s web analytics, Google Search Console, specialized software tools, whois reports, the Wayback Machine, and our own online research skills. If you have been capturing data with web analytics, you’re in a strong position. If you haven’t, or if the analytics data doesn’t tell you anything, you may need help in getting an idea of how strong your current online presence is.

See what works and what needs work.

If you have analytics, chances are good that you will be able to see some tactics that are already working well for you. If you see that you are receiving visits from news articles, from Pinterest, from bloggers, or from review sites, you know that investing some resources into those channels will probably bring you more traffic.

If you’re collecting conversion data, you can also see which channel brings you the most conversions. If your traffic is very low, you may not have enough of a sample size to make data-driven decisions on this, but you can develop a hypothesis and test it.

At it’s simplest, though, You have to be able to determine what works and what doesn’t in order to put this into practice.

Identify goals.

You might want 30% more traffic by next year, 10% more online sales next month, or higher average rankings than your top competitor. Perhaps you need 5 leads a month or evidence that your website is providing thought leadership. You might want to increase your conversion rate within the next quarter, or to get your website ready for fourth quarter shoppers so you don’t have the same problems you had last Christmas.

Each goal will require a different strategy and different tactics. If you don’t have a goal beyond general improvement, you should be happy with general improvement. We have clients whose basic goal is simply to see regular increases in traffic and conversions, and they’ve seen excellent results in their businesses and organizations, so we won’t argue against that kind of goal.

However, fine tuning your goals makes it easier to measure your results.

Read Rosie’s post on business strategy to see the importance of aligning your SEO strategy with your business strategy.

Now comes the strategy.

What overall strategy will lead you to your goals? What tactics will contribute to that strategy? What actions do you need to take now and on an ongoing basis to meet your goals?

As you can see, the process of creating an SEO strategy is not that different from creating any business strategy. You need some specialized tools and knowledge to get from “Let’s optimize our online presence!” to good results, but nowhere in there is anything like, “Submit your site to thousands of search engines!” or “Copy your competitors’ meta keywords!” Nor is there anything like, “Make random changes and see what happens!” Approach SEO strategically, and you’ll see why it’s a favorite of marketers everywhere.

Or at least of marketers who have heard of it.

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