One of the questions I get asked the most is what my process is for SEO. It's a tough question to answer because it really comes down to how much control you'll have over the process and whether or not your time restrained. My SEO process is completely different for my own sites then for a clients. Having plenty of Agency experience, I thought I'd brake down how I usually setup an SEO program when on a budget. This will be a multi-post series, with each post focusing on three months of the project.
Let's assume that you have 25 hours/month dedicated to an SEO project for a client for a twelve month engagement. That seems to be the average contract size (in my experience, anyway).
Month 1 - The SEO Audit & Keyword Research
Before you can start making recommendations on what to change, you need to do a comprehensive audit of where the company is now. Here are a few quick questions to get you started:
- What type of traffic and conversions are they getting?
- Where are they currently ranking for their targeted keywords?
- What content on their site is performing the best?
Once you have all of this data to help benchmark your SEO program, it's time to start researching keywords. I do this in a variety of ways:
- Ask them which keywords they care about the most
- Look at their analytics data and any PPC programs they may be running
- Analyze their site content and tags
- Interview key employees and those employees who speak directly to the customer
- Research their top competitors' targeted keywords
- Analyze forums, key social networks and associations
Once I have compiled a list of keywords I think they should target, I create an Excel chart that lists each page of their site and recommend up to five keywords for each page. From there, I send it over to them and explain how I chose them and ask them to select 1-3 from that list they we can target. Remember, they are the experts in their own field and can really help you figure out what keywords will resonate best with their customers.
Month 2 - Keyword Testing & Architecture Analysis
Now that we have approval on keywords to target from the client, we need to test them and make sure they are going to perform the way we want them to, before we invest the next few months in targeting them. To do this, I recommend you setup a 2-4 week PPC campaign with the landing pages being the page you wish to target the keyword on. That way we can see if you are targeting the right keywords and if you are targeting them on the right pages.
While that is running, it's time to analyze the client's website architecture. We're looking to identify a number of things:
- What areas of the site are creating walls or speed bumps for the search engines?
- What's their URL structure look like - is it clean and optimized?
- What's their navigation and internal link structure look like? Search engine friendly? Optimized?
- Are they having problems with duplicate content?
- How fast/slow are their pages loading?
- How well is the site structured from a usability standpoint (remember, you're being graded on conversions so make sure you're happy with their conversion process)?
And that's just the warm up! Once you've full completed your architecture audit. Make the recommendations for fixes, prioritize them, and try and give the client an idea of the estimated impact. That will give them more ammunition when they go to their developer or boss and request that resources be dedicated to fixing those problems/opportunities.
Month 3 - Content and Meta Tag Optimization
Both basic and important. Taking a look at our PPC test results we now have better insight into the performance of the keywords we plan to target. Make any necessary adjustments and start the optimization process. It's now time to:
- Optimize title tags using targeted keywords
- Write meta descriptions that encourage the user to click through
- Optimize the internal link structure
- Go through and sprinkle keywords throughout the website's content, where appropriate
- Take note of all changes that have been made
That last bullet point is crucial. You need to keep track of when changes are being rolled out on the site. It will give you the best way to track the impact your hard work is having. I use Raven's Event Manager to plot these changes and am then able to show the impact my changes had on rankings, traffic and conversions.
Next time we'll start diving into link building and content creation! Stay tuned.