Before any resources are spent trying to implement a SEO plan, it is critical to understand the current situation. Like any strategic activity, a critical look at the current state of affairs is necessary before beginning any outward action. While the end result of being #1 on Google for some search term may be common for all website owners, the resource requirements, timeline and strategy will be dependent on many factors.
The upfront assessment should be performed by a consultant prior to establishing and implementation strategy. It may seem obvious that a plan is required before action for any other business or marketing decision, but for some reason many believe it is possible to just implement a search engine optimization strategy without first stepping back to acknowledge, understand and document the current situation. Only once an upfront assessment is completed can a proper plan be made. With this being the case, it is not realistic to really develop a timeline or understand resource requirements until the assessment is complete. However, this critical step is clearly the best way to manage a budget to ensure the most efficient use of assets to achieve the desired results.
The upfront assessment should include at least five main components; Marketing Strategy, Competitive Analysis, Keyword Breakdown, Website Scrutiny and a Link Campaign Study. To achieve the desired business results of Search Engine Optimization, it is really necessary to focus a significant portion of the upfront assessment time analyzing the competitors' marketing strategy, website, keyword usage and incoming links. This focus on the competition will serve to both highlight potential opportunities for optimization as well as identify opportunities to surpass the efforts of others.
In order to begin, the first thing that must be understood is the company's overall marketing strategy and the desired impact a Search Engine Optimized website will have on that strategy. This includes understanding the messages currently being communicated to customers and the general public. Any marketing material being used to advertise the company or the products would certainly be relevant. A more pressing need would be to understand what competitive advantages exist that are currently being exploited as well as the competitive advantages that could be better communicated. Depending on the resources dedicated to marketing, this could be a very quick and easy analysis, or one that takes some time.
Another critical part of the marketing analysis is to understand the business metrics currently being used to analyze marketing and sales performance. It will be critical to understand how the overall marketing plan is tied to revenue performance. A lack of sufficient metrics to track performance will limit the ability to determine if any improvements have any impact on the business performance of the company.
Except in the rare instance when a company is a sole provider of a product or service, there are usually many more companies offering competing products or services. While these direct competitors will play an important role in the search engine optimization process, they are not always the only competitors to be acknowledged in the SEO process. There will be countless sites containing information that will be relevant in any search the company may be interested in optimizing for. Any site currently ranking in the top 20 or 30 results for specific searches that is not a direct competitor will be considered an indirect competitor. Both direct and indirect competitors will need to be analyzed critically prior to developing a proper implementation strategy.
The competitive landscape will be shaped by the market segment. Certain markets, specifically the ones supplying what would be considered commodities, will likely have an abundance of competitors. Other companies offering products or services that can be differentiated or operating in local markets could have less competition, but the competitors will be more specific. The competitive analysis will need to be tailored to meet the companies and market segment needs.
Of critical importance will be to analyze the competitors marketing strategies, specifically those of the top ranking sites as they will be compared by the likely audience. It will also be essential to analyze the competitors website, use of keywords, and incoming links. All of these will play a role in determining the implementation strategy.
A critical part of the upfront assessment will be to analyze the keywords and key terms (grouping of keywords) used in marketing materials, including the current website already. Are these the correct keywords that potential customers will be using when searching? Are there other keywords or phrases that customers could be using to search? Perhaps the most overlooked is what competing websites are using as keywords. Are competitors using other keywords that can be used? Are other sites that rank highly for desired key terms also heavily using other key terms? In many cases, it is possible to optimize for a region or locality, this must also be considered during analysis. It is also important to note that most will use at least 3 or 4 words when searching, so keyword phrases are at least as important as individual keywords.
Once a complete list of keywords and phrases can be established, it will be important to narrow the list down to a specific set of key terms to which optimization would be most beneficial. The list size will have a direct impact on both resource requirements and timeline for the remaining phases of the upfront assessment at the very least. If optimization is required for a broad range of generic terms the implementation strategy, timeline and effectiveness will be much different then for a narrow focus on specific keyword terms. Measurable results are possible in a manageable timeframe only when a finite set of unambiguous terms can be established from the onset.
Once the set of keyword terms are established, it will be time to conduct searches and analyze the top sites for these keyword terms. The high ranking sites could be real competitors or they could be indirect competitors providing useful information about the keyword phrases in question. The keywords usage in the content of the top sites will provide some data as to what the spiders consider valuable content. Perhaps even more important will be determining if any specific site or sites are always at the top of a broad range of keyword searches. If there are, analyzing the sites will be a significant learning exercise to uncover useful methods that have already achieved good results. If no one site appears at the top of a range of searches it is either an area of significant opportunity to become the leading resource of information, or the field is extremely competitive making the SEO even more challenging. In any event, it is best to have a complete understanding prior to spending valuable time and resources.
Webpage Content and Structure
The basic structure of a web page, including the use of text based content, images, meta tags, title and content headings will have an impact on how spiders perceive the site.
SEO Business Intelligence
Strategic Analysis - What Can Not Be Controlled
- It is NOT possible to control a user’s keyword searches
- A user will search for many variations of keyword terms
- If you are not #1 for a keyword search, someone else is
Traffic comes to an optimized website from a variety of keyword searches. Even users looking for the same exact thing will often search using different keyword terms. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to be optimized for a variety of keyword terms. It is also possible for users to search using the same exact keywords, but use them in a different direction. Results WILL vary on search engines using the same keywords but place in different directions. Check out Google searches yielding different results: Training Microsoft PowerPoint & Microsoft PowerPoint Training
The impact can be more clearly seen when looking at incoming traffic data. The top ten keyword searches by users leading to actual website traffic for RentNewTampa.com is listed below. The top ten searches accounts for only 12.5% of the search engine traffic to the website. There are no adwords campaigns, the data is only for generic results clicks.
Top ten searches account for only 12.5% of search engine traffic
Ranking highly on many search terms is key to more traffic