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#1 saschaeh

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 03:04 PM

This post is a collaboration of information from another thread which I started. <That Thread>. Thanks to all for contributing and allowing me to write the below! That would be EGOL, Autocrat, AbleReach, bragadocchio, A.N.Onym, iamlost, Black_Knight, kestrel, businessservicesuk and fisicx!

===================================================================

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?
There will always be a mix of these points. (Medium Company wants a new site with a big budget in a low competitive arena /or/ Big Company has an old site with a medium budget in a highly competitive arena.) These 5 points are a good starting point. Once you have determined these you can start on your Strategic SEO development.

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.
A proposed solution which is good practice in almost any case, no matter what the answers to the 5 questions, is to create a questionnaire. Now this has a few positive spin offs!
  • 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.
The great thing about this is that you can add questions that might be specific to that client, product or milieu. Side Note: When it comes to these kinds of questionnaires I always feel it is important to let the client know that you are there to help them with the questions because they can seem daunting. Simple note saying that this is a collaborative effort, that you will add your expertise where needed and they should just do their best – again need to make sure it’s worth your while to spend time on it. ;) Now there was someone that mentioned sending a preemptive set of questions to qualify the lead. I, however, think we can combine that into one solid questionnaire. The client wont feel like he is getting bombarded with questions but, again, this is up to your own preference. So let’s get down to the practicality!

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?
Online Marketing Objectives and Considerations:
  • 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?
Please take note that these questions will be subjective to one’s own SEO approach, client, product and/or milieu. I added what I thought was important and I took out many of the more detailed questions like “What are your highest traffic keywords?” because I thought that it required SEO knowledge to answer - We are potentially asking people who are not SEO’s but again this will be client specific! Amend the questioner accordingly. I think the objective of the questionnaire is to obtain:
  • 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.
I’d suggest giving such a questionnaire to both small and large companies alike. Request bigger companies Business Plan and/or marketing plan but the questionnaire won’t do anyone any harm!

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!
Competitiveness of arena will also affect the intensity for tactical considerations. Every little bit counts when you are playing with the big boys! If the site is new do your best. If there are new sections to a site implement as much tactical advantages as the framework allows.

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.
Now I’m sure there are a couple readers’ ahhming and arring about adding or removing some points. What im trying to highlight here is to not get too caught up in the finer details and stick to the basics, basics that you probably already are aware off. A lot of the tactics are not all that important unless you are in a hugely competitive field. Stick to the Mantras when your budget is limited.

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!)

~~~~Autocrat~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Document URL
Page Address - http://
Domain NameDocument Head


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>
Meta-Description - <meta name="description" content="" />
  • 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" />
Meta-Keywords - <meta name="keywords" content="" />
  • 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 ))
Also, Put JS last - preferable in external files!


Document Body

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>
Header Tag - <h2></h2>
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>
Header Tag - <h4></h4> <h5></h5>
  • 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>
Links - <a></a>
Navigation
  • Do my best to keep them as Text.
  • keep them in Lists.
  • Main/Parent/Section Head Links I try to make Bold
General
  • 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>
Page Copy - <p></p> <img>etc.
  • 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).
Additionals
  • 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
~~~~Autocrat~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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! :cheers:

Edited by saschaeh, 14 January 2008 - 10:26 AM.


#2 BillSlawski

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 04:51 PM

Nice one, Sascha.

I admire the effort behind your post, and I think that a lot of people who are interested in "starting the SEO process" will benefit tremendously from it.

One area that it leaves out from the original thread that I think is always a good thing to inquire about is the ability of a potential client to implement recommendations and changes to a site.

I've seen folks who want to have SEO done on their site, but refuse to change the content and code on their pages, or are using a content management system or ecommerce platform that won't allow them to make changes and refuse to switch to one that will.

Excellent work.

#3 EGOL

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 05:04 PM

Holy Smoke! I think that you've written the Bible!

Looks like you are processing this and congratulations on what you have accomplished.

#4 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 05:09 PM

Well, this may seem bias... but I liked it ;)

Seriously though - nice compilation of the information... I cannot wait to see the more detailed approach... an dmaybe even some statistics/results (be sooooooo nice to see something imperical that can be examined).

#5 cre8pc

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 06:32 PM

Incredible work and it will be gratefully accepted by the Community, as well as helpful to newcomers.

I've linked the original pinned thread to this one, to cross reference them.

#6 tamecrow

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 05:34 AM

Excellent stuff. A good step-by-step guide for beginners.

#7 saschaeh

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 06:30 AM

How inspiring! Thanks for your kind words! Couldn't have done it without you guys!

This will be the first of many more to come! (I have couple ideas already!)


See you round and about the forum :)

#8 Ruud

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 06:57 AM

:applause:

Excellent! You're making my day :)

#9 cvos

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 01:29 PM

Nice outline. One thing I like to do is add rewriting to nip any cannonical issues in the bud before problems start:


RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^site.com$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.site.com/$1 [R=301,L]

#10 swainzy

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Posted 10 October 2007 - 01:42 PM

What a generous contribution to our community saschaeh! Thanks so much for doing that. Wow!
:applause:

#11 ryno

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 12:05 AM

Wow... Kudos on the post... I haven't even read it all yet but it's great so far... thanks for the write-up!

#12 raboobi

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 05:43 AM

nice. shin to the head.

#13 cre8pc

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 02:37 PM

shin to the head


Just a note to say that we're all hoping this is intended as a compliment, because a "shin to the head" sounds terribly painful :D

#14 send2paul

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 01:18 AM

Breath taking post Sascha - I'm still ploughing through it! ;) It's an excellent resource and starting point for folks "swotting up" on SEO - well done again!

Paul

#15 Mari C

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 10:02 PM

Well this is fantastic & although way beyond my needs, will be referred to frequently as I am currently building a new site & with struggling to incorporate everything I have learned in the last 2 months re graphics, DW, CSS etc my mind is buzzing - so this is a Godsend to have a simple & clear starting point to the SEO element.

Thanks Sacha for compiling it & to everyone who kindly contributed the original info.

Mari

#16 rickgalan

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 11:56 AM

Fantastic Post! Good information for beginners, and a great reminder/guide for more seasoned SEOs out there.
Great work ;)

#17 xb90

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 03:40 PM

Wow - this is great!

A great refresher for me (and a handy reminder about some facets of my own web sites that need some attention).

Thank You!

#18 SEOigloo

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 06:11 PM

Wow! Super job Sascha! Just fantastic!

Miriam

#19 sally@cc

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 05:21 PM

Thank you very much for that post. As a total newbie most of it has gone right over my head but I have printed it off and shall look up each point I do not understand - great learning tool. :notworthy:



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