First steps to your SEO strategy.

'Chess' photo (c) 2010, Brandon Giesbrecht - license: strategies?

Many businesspeople do, and with good reason. Money and time are always tight, so no one is ever eager to see days or weeks and a few thousand dollars being invested in the research and writing of a strategy that will, many times, just sit on a shelf.

However, far from being a waste of money, an SEO strategy can be an excellent investment when properly researched, and written in a way that makes it easy to implement.

Who are you?

  • Maybe you’re a retailer in St. John’s NL, hoping SEO will help you get found by people who don’t even know you exist yet.
  • Maybe you’re a small IT team in Halifax NS, wanting to grab the attention of potential partner firms in the United States. Or…
  • Maybe you’re a not-for-profit in Atlanta GA, hoping kindhearted people will find you as they look for worthwhile causes to support.

As different as each of these situations may be, the initial steps in planning an SEO strategy will actually be pretty similar…

The key to an SEO strategy? Know thyself and thy stuff.

The first question that often comes up when planning SEO is whether or not to turn over the strategy and ongoing work to a consultant. There are good reasons on both sides of that debate, and we’ll cover the main ones in another blog post. But regardless of whether you handle it internally or bring in some help, the first part in planning your SEO strategy is always to make sure you have a very firm understanding of just who you are and what you plan to do. Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What geographic target market do we serve?
    Search engine results will often be completely different from one country or state or province or city to the next. Even people in the same house will usually see different results on Google, depending upon searches they’ve conducted in the past. Knowing the precise areas you’ll target will help isolate how exactly to prepare your SEO activities. National or international campaigns will often best be broken into several regional campaigns, each with their own targets and keywords.
  2. What range of audiences are we targeting?
    Just as you should break your effort down into separate campaigns for each geographic area, you should also create separate campaigns for different types of audiences. Big companies vs. small. Corporate buyers vs. families or individuals. Buyers who will hunt for the best quality vs. those who just need something in a hurry. They should each be planned and optimized on their own to help you achieve the highest possible rankings for each. Yes, combining them all into one would be cheaper and easier, but that would also be less effective, which in the long run will cost more rather than less, since it will take away the extra sales that more targeted campaigns would have generated.
  3. How competitive is each of our markets?
    If you are pursuing markets that are highly competitive and have lots of other companies already fighting to be seen, any significant move into the top of the search engine result pages will be a lot more challenging than for relatively quiet markets. More work and cost will therefore be needed to develop a concise strategy.
  4. What are the authoritative Websites in your target markets?
    Search engines and potential customers will all see you as more credible if the sites they know and trust are saying good things about you and linking to your Website. Building links from respected Websites is an essential part of any legitimate SEO strategy and campaign. Unfortunately, this vital activity is often the territory of black-hat SEO “consultants” and tricksters whose shortcuts and bought links from shady sites will hurt rather than help your search engine rankings. It is therefore vital for your linkbuilding efforts to be guided with a clear understanding of which sites are relevant to your markets, and why they would want to link to you. If you’re planning to buy links or blast Website managers asking them to link to your site, it’s time for a new plan.

Once you have considered the above points for your particular situation, you’re already well on your way to creating an effective SEO strategy. The more targeted and localized your campaign will be, the easier it will generally be for you to tackle any aspect of your SEO planning and activities.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Maybe you’ve always been local or have only appealed to one type of buyer. If so, it’s easy to keep thinking that way. However, the right SEO strategy may open you up, literally, to a whole new world of opportunities. Even better, that world will be accessible for far less money than would ever be possible through traditional marketing efforts. So stop for a moment to ask yourself what you really want to accomplish. Consider the possibilities. They are quite possibly as unlimited as your imagination.

It’s time.

If your company is exploring search engine optimization as a marketing investment, a concise SEO strategy will help you generate a higher return on that investment. Follow the initial steps outlined above to help you narrow your focus on the markets and keywords that will create the best results. You will then be able to optimize your site’s content and architecture and your online network to better fit your intended markets, and meet your specific SEO objectives.


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