I recently posted this on Optify, but wanted to share here as well. Enjoy!
For agencies and clients just starting to focus on search engine optimization as a marketing program, it can seem overwhelming. There is a LOT of information, data and jargon available online which tends to get pretty technical fairly quickly. The objective of this blog post is to give you a framework for setting expectations and discussing SEO with your clients to set you up for success.
First, there are 5 things you should know about Search Engine Optimization:
- The #1 job of search engines is to provide a great user experience. This truism is the rule that runs how search engines make decisions about what is good content, bad content, what to emphasize and how to rank pages. The better the content that is the most relevant to the keyword query, the more important the engines will see the page.
- SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. Clients who want a “quick win” or to rank #1 for a term in a short period of time have the wrong idea about SEO. Success in search engine optimization comes over time and you need to be committed to it for the long term. If you want a quick win, do paid search (SEM).
- SEO will impact every group that touches the website. SEO is not just a marketing program, it impacts how your website is developed, how you talk about your company, how the PR team talks about your company, how you interact with partners and more. Getting different functions from the client involved in the SEO process increases success.
- Search engines rank pages, not domains. Each page on a website is an opportunity to rank for a specific focus keyword. The more pages you have of good quality content that is well optimized for search, the more success you will have.
- SEO is a zero sum game. In order for you to rank in the top 3 for a particular keyword or phrase, you have to knock someone else out of that position.
Here is a communication structure we use to discuss SEO that helps focus tasks and projects. Each category has a series of tasks associated with it that can be seen as a way to engage clients in projects that can lead to retainers and on-going work.
SEO is comprised of three major categories of tasks organized by new project priority:
Is the website accessible by search engines and are we doing everything we can to send the right signals to the engines about the content on the site?
The technical components are the easiest to execute because the site owner has total control over this aspect. These include everything from making sure the blog structure is optimized for SEO, there are no issues that block a search engine from crawling the site and finding all of the pages, that there are no bad links or 404 errors, that a sitemap and sitemap.xml are in place, that we don’t have duplicate content on the site, etc. The SEO Technical Audit is a great resource to understand this component and is usually the first thing we do in an SEO engagement. The items are also very actionable which makes everyone feel good about progress.
Are we creating enough compelling, deep content that supports the keywords that are important to our business? Where are the content gaps on our site? What is our content syndication strategy?
The content category starts to get more strategic in which we create a keyword strategy so that we have an idea for the keyword phrases to focus on that are not too big and broad (music), that really speak to the audience we want to sell to and that we have a good chance of ranking for so that those rankings will result in traffic and leads/conversions.
Once we have the keyword strategy thought through, we compare the keywords to the content on the site. Optimizing individual pages for specific keywords will let us know how many terms are covered with content and where the open content gaps are.
The next big piece of content work is putting a plan in place to create/write/publish new content that supports the focus keywords on a regular basis.
Engines want to know that other people think your site and content is great, not just you. Building authority at the domain and page level is critical to boosting your rankings.
Authority comes in two main flavors:
Domain authority – how long your domain has been around, how active the content posting is, how many total links coming into the site, how many pages on the site, how well it is structured, etc.
Page authority – how much authority does an individual page have? A page inherits authority from the domain, but it needs to stand on its own through links directly to the page and mentions in social media for the URL.
Authority is acquired in three main ways:
- Just being active, well built and long lasting. Domains with a longer history tend to have more overall authority as do sites that publish good content on a regular basis.
- Links to pages throughout the site from a high diversity of outside domains. Links are the primary way sites pass authority to each other and the more good quality links you have from other domains that have relevance to your business, the more overall authority you will have.
- Social media mentions. When you have a new blog post or white paper or bit of news and you syndicate that content through your social media channels – you spread the opportunity for people to link to that content, re-tweet the content, post the URL on Facebook, etc. These are all signals the engines look at with different levels of priority to assign authority.
Wrap it Up Already!
Hopefully, this post has given you a framework for thinking about and discussing SEO with current and future clients. The more simply you can talk about what drives SEO and how to approach it, the more comfortable your clients will be to invest in a tech audit project or a competitive analysis or a keyword strategy to get the SEO party started.
We look forward to your comments and other ideas on this topic!