SEO is marketing and what is marketing without direction. Very often strategic planning and execution are synonymous with each other as we will see later in this post. There are couple variables which will have influence on how we go about finding direction for SEO. The mix of those different variables will have an effect on the depth of planning and style of execution.
5 considerations before strategy and execution:
- Are you working on an existing site?
- Will it be a new site?
- What is the budget? – (not always immediately available but try sus it out best you can)
- How competitive is the arena you are entering?
- What is the size of the company you are dealing with?
Lets back track for a second - SEO Strategy: It is vital to understand what the project intends to achieve from an SEO point of view. SEO strategy is the big picture. It can derive itself from a Business Plan and/or Marketing Plan. What are the objectives of my business, how will we achieve this, what marketing will facilitate those objectives and so on. (Remember SEO is a form of marketing - this is an obvious point that is maybe not overlooked but not properly related.)
How to obtain and collect this kind of high level strategic information will depend on the first 5 questions.
- If the company is big then they probably already have a lot of that documentation in which case you can request it and then relate it to an online strategy. You can then consult them on the practicalities of moving forward. (Remember your time is the most valuable thing you own! Taking their marketing plan and translating it to an online strategy is intellectual property that you can bill for! If the client is small and you need the experience naturally you can bite the bullet and cut your financial gains for hearty experience.)
- If it is a small company with a large budget you can offer to develop such a strategy for them, you bill for this, and then consult on the SEO implementations looking forward.
- If the company is medium and has a moderate budget they may not be interested in this at all because one it cost money and time and two they are 2 busy trying to run their business. Some might have the “I don’t care how you do it just do it” approach. Now we don’t always want to turn those clients down. We can aim at adding value and facilitate a service to make it possible for these individuals. Some SEO'ers might not agree and take the hard ball approach: “If they not willing to spend time on the strategy im not willing to work with them because they don’t take it seriously” Its really up to how you want to deal with a situation and what the project is worth to you.
- It shows interest in your clients company and will potentially help your client define their own goals. From the outset you are adding real value to your client. If your are the site owner then it will help define and clarify your own goals.
- If you package the questionnaire in a very smart and slick way it is a positive branding exercise which markets yourself and/or your company.
- It may be easier working from a template that you have design, asking the question that are most pertinent to you then studying a marketing and business plan which may end up being cumbersome, badly writing and/or outdated.
You should spend a good amount of time on the actual document and make it easy to understand and super slick at the same time. Id start with the high level questions first:
Overall Business Objectives:
- What are the business objectives?
- What marketing strategies do you currently have in place?
2.1 How does the online aspect of it fit into your current marketing strategy?
- What are your core products or services?
- Who are the different audiences that the site can appeal to, and provide goods or services or information for?
- What are your primary & secondary key phrases?
- How do you currently measure performance?
- How might conversions be defined for the site? Purchases? Leads generated? Newsletter or service subscriptions? Downloading of specific whitepapers or pages or software?
- General, Short term and Long term goals for SEO.
- Who do you consider to be your competitors?
- Do you already have an "image" or "brand" in place that can be pushed.
- Any specific ideas about the type of marking you want to do? (viral, advertising etc.)
- What skills do you currently already have available in terms of web development?
5.1 If yes; What is the development or change process like, when you want to make changes, including the time that it typically takes to make changes?
- Have there been any SEO efforts recently or in the past?
- How are you driving traffic to your site now?
- Are you willing to change varies elements on your website? (Content, Structure, technologies, etc…)
- Are there any design, infrastructure or development considerations?
- Are you equipped to handle an increase in business?
- What’s the budget either monthly or total?
- Whether it will be viable effort to begin with. (Wanting to be top 8 for keywords “online poker” with a small budget and one resource in 1 month is just not going to happen!!)
- What they want and what we can deliver given their current framework, resources and budget.
So, we have sent the above questioner through and lucky for us the client has filled it out and it all looks excellent! Healthy budget, flexible resources and an open minded client. So now what? It is now time to start putting plan to action. But before we dive in id suggest some groundwork in terms of managing client expectations. You need to communicate what is doable and what challenges face you and consult the client accordingly. A bit of back and forth communication just to making sure you are all on the same page – what you plan to do and what results and risk there potentially are. It is unrealistic to categorically promise certain SEO results. Be realistic and level with the client so he understand SEO is not like purchasing long last milk or a knife set. Now you are ready to start developing!
Some would refer to this as tactics. Tactics would be the nuts and bolts. All the SEO particulars that people endlessly debate about. Placement of content, linking, Divs, H1, H2, CSS, not or how to use scripts etc so on so forth forever and a couple days.
Now again here we will need to refer to our first five questions in order to make a decision on our ‘tactical’ approach. This is the part that is sure to spark a LOT of debate. There are no hard and fast rules because there is no hard and fast rulebook. There are many things that we, SEO’s, have agreed work. These practices have been tried and tested with discrepancies here and there. We will go through all this shortly. Now depended on the five questions would depend on how much of these practices you should take on. Lets look at different scenarios:
- With a limited budget and if they already have a site you may not opt to redo the whole site according to those SEO tactical practices simply because they are not as important as we would like to believe. (Shock horror!) The money could be allocated to better areas such as writing great copy! So you need to focus on the mantras of SEO: Superbly written, strategic and relevant content, internal linking structure to make sure Google finds all that lovely content and in-bound links as a result of an excellent website and superb content! You also need take advantage of titles and header elements. Your SEO mantras! Will go over them again in a bit.
- With a very high budget and an old site you may as well redo the entire site and implement as many SEO tactics as you know. You will see a good starting point for this below thanks to Autocrat!
- New site and a low budget. Absolutely no reason why you should not make it to the best of your SEO tactical knowledge as you are developing the site from the ground up!
So what are these practices?!:
I am at a huge risk of being lambasted by the SEO heavy hitter, but I am going to lay out two options. One is for a low budget – The Mantras of SEO. Option two is a more comprehensive approach that will require more time and resources.
This is the low budget option: - (First 4 are uber important and the less important follow)
- Superbly written, strategic and relevant content
- Internal linking structure and right technologies (not JS) to make sure Google finds all that lovely content
- Quality In-bound links mainly as a result of a excellent website and superb content – (This is super important)
- Title and header elements with Keywords specific to that page and the overall keyword strategy.
- XML Sitemap
- Create clean code - If you have scripts have it in a external file or at the bottom!
- Robot.txt (mainly to exclude and point SE's to xml sitemap)
- Flash with important and lots of content is a bad idea.
Brief note about content: Decide what keywords you want to rank for and work on developing excellent SEO sensitive content. Write enough for multiple pages and interlink them to each other. This creates content depth, authority in the theme and helps you get ranked for many of those terms. (Adapted from EGOL’s post! Thank you!)
Below is the more comprehensive approach on a tactical starting point for SEO website development!: (Ala Autocrat! Thanks again!)
Page Address - http://
- Try to get a Domain Name that has some of the Keywords/phrases in if possible, else go for the Company/SiteName.
- If the Name consists ofmultiple words, consider the primary domain using hyphens.
Page Name / File Name
- Try to make the Page Name / File Name match the PageTitle.
Title - <title></title>
- I place it at the very top of the section.
- I try to make it "sementic" = PageTitle + SectionTitle + Company/Site Name
<title>Brass Widgets - Widgets - Widgetting Engineering Ltd</title>
- I place it near the top of the section, (after Title, before CSS etc.).
- I try to make it "useful" = PageTitle, +brief detail inc. several key words/phrases, +Company/Site Name, + Contact details(Tel., Add.)
<meta name="description" content="Brass Widgets - A sample of our wide range of hand crafted and machine milled brass widgets, Widgetting Engineering Ltd, Hampshire, Southampton, SO15 4PP, 02380 123123" />
- I place it near the top of the section, (after Description, before CSS etc.).
- I try to make it "useful" = Single Word and Dual Words from the PageTitle/Brief +Company/SiteName
<meta name="keywords" content="Widgets, Brass, Brass Widgets, Hand Crafted, Hand Made, Machine Milled, Widgetting Engineering Ltd" />
(NOTE: They may not be used by SE's any more - but they sure as hell help Clients to remember what the content is meant to be about - I make them right out Keywords first, then build the content around those focus points) ((How I used to right Essays too ))
Header Tag - <h1></h1>
- I place it as the first "content" if I can help it.
- I tend to apply bold to it as well.
- Even if the client has a logo in the design - I hide it with CSS negative positioning.
- You could make it a link if the Text is visible
- I try to make it "Meaningful" = Company/Site Name ( you may want to inc. SectionTitle + PageTitle)
: <h1>Widgetting Engineering Ltd</h1>
: <h1>Widgetting Engineering Ltd - Widgets - Brass Widgets </h1>
These are used in conjunction with the HeaderRule <hr /> and ID for splitting the site into sections and enabling certain user types to jump around the site.
(Header / Nav / Content / Footer)
Header Tag - <h3></h3>
- I tend to apply bold to it as well.
- I try to make it "Meaningful" = PageTitle (alternatively, PageTitle + Section Title)
: <h3>Brass Widgets</h3>
: <h3>Brass Widgets - Widgets</h3>
- I tend to apply bold or underline to it as well.
- I use these to indicate sub-sections of pages
: <h4>Hand Crafted Brass Widgets</h3>
: <h3>Machine Milled Brass Widgets</h3>
- Do my best to keep them as Text.
- keep them in Lists.
- Main/Parent/Section Head Links I try to make Bold
- Always supply Title Attribute.
- Always try to seperate them from standard text (Bold + diff. Colour etc.).
- Try to include "in-page" Links to other pages within the copy (sort of intro's to sub/child pages)
: <p>We also provide <a class="bold" href="#" title="details on our custom, hand crafted widgets">hand crafted widgets</a>for those unique, custom or lovingly crafted projects.</p>
- Try to make the 1st Paragraph a general sumamtion of the Page/Section.
- Try to get at least 3 keywords/phrases/terms in the 1st Paragraph.
- Try to get at least 1 keywords/phrases/terms within the 6 words in the 1st Sentence of the 1st Paragraph.
: <p>The widget you need, the way you want it - it doesn't matter whether you need them by the hundred or jsut those few unique ones, Widgetting Engineering Ltd can make the Widget work!<p>
- Follow similar patterns for other Paragraphs.
- in-page Images should have Alt Attributes, with a keyword/phrase in.
- in-page Images should have File Names that match (rather than img1003dd.jpg).
- Emphasis bits of text - don't over do it... but apply a diff. colour + Bold (Italic if the font is big enough/readable).
- Visitor Sitemap (try to follow the Navigation example!).
- XML Sitemap (Make the bots life easier ).
- robots.txt file (inc. location of XML Sitemap).
- link in the <head> section pointing to the Visitor Sitemap
- link in the <head> section pointing to the XML Sitemap
I am certain that different SE’s may have different approaches. SE’s are puritans with different ideals of purities. Remember this post is about starting on the right SEO path not reaching our own utopia - quite yet anyway. Therefore this should suffice a young fledgling SEO to get the ball rolling. Not to say you shouldn't do your own research along the way! SEO is shrouded with consideration, options and opinions. When you start out it can be very daunting, discouraging and never leave you in any kind of certainty.
I have a little bit of experience. I have followed some tactics and some of the strategy discussed above. Admittedly not comprehensively! But who would have thought that little old me could pull off some nice rankings and get some consistent traffic to my site? Certainly not me! I am just plodded along. My point is that just have a stab at it follow the guidelines that keep popping up, don’t get to caught up in all the heavy debates about the Nitti-gritty of all the tactical implementations. Our time will come to really play around with that. For now the above information, which was supplied by the kind and greatly knowledgeable cre8asite masters, should stand you in good company on your path to SEO mastery! Keep Reading - Keep Learning - Keep Trying!
All the best – Sascha!
Edited by saschaeh, 14 January 2008 - 10:26 AM.