The Search Engine Optimization planning phase involves identifying a strategy and roadmap to reach your goals. The process can be daunting. As a framework, consider these six steps:
- Objective. What do you want to achieve?
- Measure. How will you monitor performance?
- Website Audits. What problems do SEO opportunities create?
- Strategy. What opportunities should you focus on?
- Action plan. How will you benefit from these opportunities?
- Staffing. Who does the work?
This post is the third payout in my "SEO How-to" series. "Part 1: Why use it?" discussed the importance of search engine optimization for e-commerce, and "Part 2: Understanding Search Engines" covered the basics of how search engines work.
Your goals should reflect the role of organic search traffic in your overall marketing mix. Focus on what the program needs to achieve and be specific.
The worst goal – and the most common – is "Get more organic search traffic." When? How much more? How do you know when you have reached your goal?
Goals should be measurable, assigned to a person, realistic and with an endpoint. For example, your goals may include:
- "Susan will drive 10 percent more sales through the organic search channel 2020 than 2019."
- "Terry will work with the customer service division to create at least 20 additional pages of content by the end of the third quarter of 2020."
Understanding your current organic search performance can help you decide which areas of your site to optimize. You may decide that one set of pages already works at the highest and should be left alone, while another is seriously underperforming and requires immediate attention.
Start with your most important performance indicators: organic search traffic and revenue.
Driving awareness and interest are the main advantage of organic search. Thus, traffic is the best measure of performance. However, tracking revenue is also important to ensure that traffic is relevant to your business.
Although they are not a CPI, the keywords that your site ranks in are crucial. Ranking better for keywords with high volume will generate more traffic and also increase brand awareness from exposure on search results pages.
SEO audits reveal why your site works the way it does. The audits usually focus on three areas: technical, content and authority.
Technical audits address crawling and indexing. They analyze the site's code and server response for problems that can prevent search engine bots from accessing and indexing the pages effectively.
Content revisions focus on the relevance of a site's text to the most commonly searched keyword themes. Keyword research plays an important role in understanding the words and phrases to focus on.
Authority reviews focus on the quality, quantity and current relevance of links from other sites to yours. Data from Google Search Console can help. But a tool like Majestic or Link Detox can provide much more information to evaluate the quality of the incoming links.
Competitive analysis plays a role in each of these audits. Remember, your organic search competitors are sites that rank for your targeted keywords. You will resist blogs, magazines, magazines and retailers as well as other similar e-commerce sites.
Analyze competitors' websites to understand their technical, relevance and authority signals. Then incorporate these insights into your new SEO strategy.
The areas of relative error (identified in the SEO audits) represent growth opportunities. Taking advantage of these opportunities consists of priorities – business value, time frame and ability to explain briefly to decision makers.
Keep in mind the following:
- Value. Calculate the potential value in terms of your KPIs organic search traffic and revenue. Aspects of your strategy can extend beyond immediate SEO benefits. For example, content creation may be lower on the SEO list but higher than the needs of other marketing channels.
- Regulation. Some possibilities depend on other features. Optimizing content in an important section of the site could be hampered when first designing the page templates. In that case, reshaping has a higher priority than would otherwise be possible.
- Explanation. Keep the strategy short when explaining to colleagues and decision makers. Align three or fewer statements, each representing similar projects or tasks. It is not a list of everything you will do; It is a direction to direct your SEO program.
- Timeframe. Include opportunities that can be implemented quickly. Distant goals are demoralizing.
- Inspiration. Gather your employees. Help them understand the benefits of strategy for the company, as opposed to trudge to get there.
Using the plan is relatively simple. List the opportunities identified in the audits. Then prioritize these opportunities in a timeline.
Every opportunity is a project. Each project is a series of tasks. Assign an end date and owner to each task and create a way to track progress.
For example, optimizing the website may require three sequential tasks: rewrite the text, approve the text, and put the text on the page. Each task would probably have a separate owner.
Creating and managing an SEO plan is essentially a project. Thus, project management tools, such as Asana or Trello, can make it easier.
To determine staffing needs, start by listing the necessary skills for your action plan. Then decide which of these skills is missing from your team for potential new hires or outsourcing.
Your budgetary realities and how urgent and the size of your goals will determine how to add new skills. You can train an existing employee, hire a new employee or contract with a consultant or agency. Otherwise, you will not meet your goals.