To build a successful SEO campaign you need to consider many factors which go beyond the traditional SEO work. Achieving good rankings in search engines is not the only concern; on the contrary a good SEO campaign should be able to drive traffic to a website from a number of sources including but not limited to social media and mobile.
The way that the digital industry is evolving has changed SEO and a SEO campaign today includes actions you would normally expect to find in an Internet marketing campaign or even a digital marketing campaign ( which is a more trendy term these days -see also: Digital Marketing VS Internet Marketing – What is the latest trend?) .
Nevertheless, whatever the name you give to your campaign, if you want to have a good return from your investment it needs to have both short and long term goals. I would say that short term goals in this case are things like on page SEO and making sure that you know exactly the current state of your website (strengths, weaknesses, potential growth etc.) and long terms goal have to do with building your digital brand and establishing a proper presence in social media.
Whenever I start work with a new client on a new SEO campaign, I follow the steps below that give me complete control of the process and so far the results are more than satisfactory. I will be posting a couple of case studies in the next couple of months so make sure that you are registered to receive our new articles.
Step 1 – Analyze the current setup
The basic idea behind this first step is that you need to know basic information about the website in order to be able to make decisions. What I do is check things like:
Web Site Platform – Is the website based on a modern or an outdated platform? A modern platform (like WordPress) is fast, more secure, easier to optimize and more flexible when it comes to design. If the platform used is old and outdated then my first suggestion is to migrate to WordPress before doing anything else. SEO wise it is sometimes cheaper for the client to pay for the migration to WordPress rather than paying for optimizing a platform that was not build for the web.
Web site Design – Besides the platform one of the things you need to decide in advance is whether you will keep or change the current design of a website. This is always a tough decision since the look and feel of a website is subjective and what you like as SEO may not be what the client expects. If you are to change platform then things are a bit easier since you can select a new theme together and then customize it but if you decide to keep the existing design then any changes for SEO purposes have to be justified and agreed.
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Traffic sources – One of the metrics you need to analyze before starting a new campaign is traffic sources. In other words from where does the current website gets traffic. The best way to do that is by viewing the traffic sources report from Google analytics (Example 1 in best Google analytic reports for beginners). If Google analytics is not installed on the site you can get the data from the tools available or by installing Google analytics and waiting a couple of weeks to gather some data.
What is important to distinguish is traffic coming from Google and other search engines (i.e. organic traffic) and traffic coming from other sources.
Step 2 – Perform a SEO audit
This is the starting point of your SEO campaign. The deliverables of a SEO audit will become the action plan of your campaign. The audit will help you identify areas that need improvement in terms of on page SEO (i.e. on the site) but also in terms of off-page SEO (areas beyond website design).
Step 3 – Work on social media
If this article was written 2 or 3 years ago then step 3 would be “Build links”. Fortunately things have changed and the focus has now moved from building links to creating social media connections.
Once you make the changes identified by the SEO Audit the next step is to start work on social media. If you are a beginner to social media you should start by reading my 10 social media marketing tips for beginners and SEO boost your social media profiles.
Besides the traffic benefits, social media will help you understand if you are moving to the right direction. In other words if your content is promoted on Facebook, twitter or other channels then this is a sign that what you are doing is accepted.
If on the other hand you are using proper social media marketing methods but you don’t have any return (i.e. traffic, likes, fans, followers etc.) then this is a good indication that you need to improve the quality of your content.
Step 4 – Work on local SEO
Most businesses have a website in order to promote their products or services in the local market and sometimes all they want is local SEO. Things like Google maps; Google+ for Business will generate more exposure to your web site from the local market. See also 10 SEO tips for startups and small business owners
Step 5 – Do your Keyword research
Keywords are a very important part of a SEO campaign. There are a number of tools to use to make a complete keyword research analysis.
Google Keyword tool is your starting point – Your goal is to find as many related keywords as you can and try to incorporate those into your content strategy. (See also: How to use the Google keyword tool)
Search queries (from Google Webmaster tools) – The search queries report of the Google webmaster tools gives you valuable information about the performance of your website in Google Search. You can see which keywords generate traffic and the position of each keyword in the search results. (See also: How to use Google webmaster tools for beginners – section 5)
Google auto-complete and related searches – When you search something on Google, as you type you get a number of suggestions. This can give you a good idea of what people are searching. Once you hit enter, you can also scroll down the page see the ‘Related Searches’. The same applies for Yahoo and Bing as well.
Step 6- Perform a Competitor Analysis
It is almost certain that there are more than a dozen websites offering the same products and services as you do. Knowing who your on-line competitors are and how they operate online can be helpful when establishing your long term plan. For example if your main competitor is offering on-line services then this is something you should provide as well.
I wouldn’t spend too much time on this step since what matters at the end of the day is how your website is performing and not what your competitors are doing.
Step 7 – Establish your content strategy
Content is the core of every website and having a content strategy will make it easier to promote your web site in search engines and social media. Depending on the kind of website you are running, you can create a suitable content strategy.
For example, if you are running a blog or a how-to website you may need to publish content on a frequent basis to give incentives for your users to come back. If you are running a small business website promoting your products then updating may not be your main task but you can concentrate your efforts on social media and other promotion methods.
Step 8 – Measure progress
A true campaign needs to have milestones with clearly defined targets. The only way to ensure that targets are met is by measuring progress. Monthly progress reports are ideal for long term campaigns and they can also be used for pricing purposes as well.
Step 9 – Identify other potential sources of traffic besides search engines
As mentioned in my introduction above, a successful SEO campaign these days goes beyond traditional SEO and touches the boundaries of digital marketing. This means that besides optimizing a website for search engines you will have to look into other areas like mobile marketing, email marketing, Pay per click campaigns and in general ways to increase web site traffic (besides search engines).
Step 10 – Build relationships
In the past one of the major activities you had to do as an SEO was to build links. As I explained above this has changed in favor of social media and what you essentially need to do these days, is start building relationships. This is how the offline World works and this is how the online World is starting to work.
So you should branch out and make friends in your niche, get closer to people who are considered to be the influencers and when the time is right introduce yourself and start building a business relationship.
The outcome of this could be a guest post to an important blog, an interview with an important person to a follow back by a social media persona. All these things if done correctly, slowly and without exaggerations will increase the credibility of your website and this will results in better rankings and more traffic.
An SEO Campaign is not just about SEO. You should start by finding out where you are at the moment (analyse current situation) and where you want to go (seo audit). You should then give great emphasis on social media and local SEO while at the same time doing traditional keyword research and taking a look at what your main competitors are doing. Your aim is to always build high quality content and keep your users happy.
Last but not least, you should measure your progress (or lack of it) on a regular basis, and try to escape from search engines and social media by looking at alternative sources of traffic.
Finally, for long lasting success you should build relationships with people in your niche and try to establish your digital brand.