Back when dinosaurs still walked the earth I did a marketing qualification in Direct & Interactive Marketing. Whilst the course was definitely really useful most of the stuff I learned back then I don’t use very much and as a result it languishes half-forgotten somewhere in the recesses of my brain.
The SWOT Analysis was one such technique I’d forgotten I knew until Phil Nottingham (who works with me at Distilled) was asked to complete one for a client… and it all came flooding back.
“SWOT Analysis – hells yes! Why the hell haven’t I been doing those recently?”
*Cue blank stares*
Why was I so excited? For the uninitiated a SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning technique credited to Albert Humphrey that dates back to the 1960s.
Actually, wait. That doesn’t sound very exciting does it? Let me break it down
SWOT stands for:
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors (i.e. they are particular to the organisation) whereas opportunities and threats are external factors (i.e. particular to the landscape which the company operates in).
A SWOT Analysis is typically applied to a company (and their competitive landscape) and is used to help determine high level strategy to achieve a company’s over-arching objectives. These objectives might be profit-led or growth-led; for example:
Of course in the real world it’s often not an ‘either/or’ scenario, but hopefully you get the picture.
A SWOT Analysis is typically presented in a grid as shown below:
Well determining the right SEO strategy for a company is difficult. In my experience most clients come to us with an objective that looks something like this:
“Grow sales via non-paid traffic from X to Y.”
There are many ways one might go about doing that – right? Do you focus on head terms, or the long tail? Do some conversion rate optimisation? Do you need links to improve rankings? Or is it the site’s poor architecture ruining your chances? Has the site been penalised?
What might stop you from achieving your objective(s)? Competitor activity? Algorithm updates? What are Google up to? Have they (or are they likely to) leap into your vertical?
Well, friends a SWOT analysis might just help.
You’re presenting something in a familiar (well familiar if you’re talking to marketers or high-level managers), easily digestible format. I’ve never been a fan of long documents – they don’t get read; and even if they are, people are often left thinking, but how does this all fit together? What are we actually doing here?
You’re forced to be specific and make recommendations that will work for that specific company, rather than talking in general terms. You’re making concrete recommendations.
OK – let’s do this. I’m going to do a SWOT analysis for an imaginary site.
Like most their objective is to grow sales from non-paid traffic from X to Y.
Obviously, that example might not be quite relevant to your own situation, but hopefully you can see how you might utilise it for your own site or your client’s sites.
It seems only right and proper that I should highlight that the SWOT technique (like many other techniques) does of course have it’s detractors. For example, the nature of the SWOT grid doesn’t allow for any weighting of factors in terms of importance.
It’s also probably important to note that I’m definitely ‘bending’ SWOT analysis into a framework that suits my own purposes. A true SWOT analysis should look at all channels to market – not just SEO.
Furthermore it’s entirely conceivable that in some circumstances your SWOT analysis might lead you to conclude that actually, organic search isn’t an appropriate route to market – for example if Google’s leaping into your vertical in a big way and / or if you’ve strong, well-established competitors with bigger budgets you might not be able to compete in any meaningful way.
After I’d written this, I also found these other great posts about using SWOT which are definitely worth a read:
Want to learn more about SWOT analysis? I’d recommend checking out this guide from the somewhat amusingly titled Business Balls site.
And so dear readers – over to you. Do you already use SWOT analysis for SEO / online marketing? Find it useful? Or do you use other techniques? Do let me know via the commentsImage credits: Lego - http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwl/4678498113/sizes/z/in/set-72157623544311963/ SWOT Matrix - http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:SWOT_en.svg&page=1