For too many people for too long, SEO has seemed like occult sciences. Part research, part technical, part magic, search, and specifically SEO, has seemed something you had to trust someone else to do. Understanding more about how search works means not only being able to ensure it is executed in-house properly, it also means a better working relationship between you and your agency if you utilise one.
Setting up a search strategy may seem impossible if you come from a point of not understanding even the fundamentals of search, but information about the core of SEO – those elements which are most important to ranking – are published and freely available. What regrettably isn’t free is the expertise that comes from years of executing those theories.
To create and execute a search strategy, whether with an agency or in-house you’ll need an internal champion (not the search professional but a senior team member), a set of realistic goals, an understanding of keyword targets, the pages those keywords are associated with, a benchmark for everything – including search results and a gameplan for ownership of as much of the search results for your chosen keywords as possible.
The most important starting point is going to be identifying and establishing an internal search champion. Whether you get your search solution delivered in-house by a team or by an agency externally, there needs to be someone internal to your organisation who will bang the drum of optimisation, visibility and search awareness. Your champion can also manage the agency relationship or keep the internal team up to date with what is happening around the business to ensure everything stays co-ordinated. Lack of an internal champion (or champions) can doom even the best search strategy to failure as without that drive to keep everyone search-aware, it is easy to slip.
Once identified, everyone needs to understand what the goals are. These targets need to be realistic, relevant, achievable, and specific. There are a number of common criteria which can be measured provided the correct tools are in place. Measurements that go beyond followers, likes and fans are useful as they take the focus away from popularity measures and into measures of things which could increase ROI more directly.
The below SEO ROI measurements can be used with different types of businesses: Visits from Organic Search Results – Measuring the number of visits in to site purely from organic search result; Number of Visitors from natural search Per Keyword; Conversions on Organic Traffic; Rankings for Keywords.
Create a list of what you know needs to happen then establish an order in which they can be done as well as what has to happen first. They key elements of ensuring your site is on target are: Keyword research, technical audit & fixes, content audit and optimisation, link building, link bait & non-local content, social engagement.
One of the most difficult and time-consuming things to do, but the one thing which will last longest, is the keyword research. A well executed keyword research piece will last years. This can also be used to map the non-branded keywords chosen to appropriate landing pages. This mapping not only ensures the focus for the page is always clear, it is used in link building. Once benchmarking and the keywords and mapping has been done, other work such as technical audits, gap analysis and optimisation can happen. Keyword research is foundational.