Search engine optimisation is an important consideration when marketing your company on the web but there is often confusion about what it actually is and what is involved. Some companies go for a short term solution and pay to have pages “optimised” and content written with the belief that their rankings will improve immediately. However, SEO is a long term solution in helping increase the overall visibility of a website and is a partnership between an agency and a client. It should be noted that with some of the black hat techniques people have used in the past as well as all the Google updates, it can be hard to deliver guaranteed ranking results. It can also be difficult to show the value of SEO especially to those who have limited marketing knowledge or are only aware of PPC/affiliate spend.
Therefore it is important to know how to get the most out of SEO and show to clients the return on their investment (ROI) in resource and expenditure. I outline below seven key parameters which need to be considered to derive benefit from search engine optimization.
1) Set out clear objectives
Before signing up with a client or with an agency, make sure you both have clear goals with deadlines. It is important for the client to share their business and marketing objectives so that SEO can be built into these objectives. Working with the in house team or with the agency is a partnership. Working together will achieve more than in silo. Both parties need to understand what work is involved and the results (objectives to be achieved).
The client should be honest with the agency and let them know if any SEO has been done on the client site in the past, including any link building. If the latter cannot be discussed until the contract has been signed, both parties should then be honest with one another and disclose previous SEO work.
2) SEO is not just about page titles
For the client and agency, it is important that there is a mutual understanding of SEO and that it extends further than page titles. It is important for those in SEO to carry out a technical audit, assess what areas need to be fixed.
For example, is there a XML site map, has Google Webmaster Tools been set up correctly? Amending just a few page titles in the code or through a wordpress plugin such as Joost, will not necessarily fix the SEO on the site. As Barry Adams (link to mentioned in his recent post, it is important to prioritise SEO tasks so that both the client and agency are working towards the same goal.
3) Manage expectations
SEO is a long term strategy. Unlike PPC or display where it is possible to set a budget and have an expected number of clicks/visits to the site, with SEO there are no guaranteed clicks or ranking positions. Google makes this even more difficult due to their numerous updates. Treat any agency that promises ranking position with caution. It is possible to positively affect the overall visibility of a client’s site, but this involves on site changes, technical changes as well as off site content creation and blogger outreach.
4) Content Marketing is about SEO
Writing great content is an important part of SEO. The on page copy should be written with SEO in mind and if there is a blog/news section, this should be updated regularly with relevant content, not just for the sake of it. As Annabel Hodges mentioned in her post on State of Digital, “Content marketing is not a single project or piece of content, it is the entire approach of your website and brand to the way your voice communicates with your customers – this should include social media, email, PR, online and offline, blogs, seasonal content etc.” Therefore it is extremely important that everyone in the company fully support SEO and the content written as part of the strategy. This leads me onto the fifth point:
5) Get the brand team on board
SEO is not just the responsibility of the marketing consultant and is more effective if everyone in the company understands the SEO objectives. If content marketing is part of the SEO strategy, then it is important that the brand team is across the content and approves it. It is a good idea to arrange a meeting with the brand team and an SEO 101 session so that they fully understand SEO and the reasons the company is embarking with an SEO strategy. A content marketing plan with dates against each piece of content and expected dates for sign off is key in SEO implementation.
6) Building Relationships Takes Time
Blogger outreach (where marketers or site owners contact sites in their relevant field), is a time consuming process. It is important to work with the right sites where there is relevant content to a client’s products or services. Any good relationship is worth spending time to develop and blogger outreach is no exception. It is hard to yield an immediate increase in traffic to a site following on from content with a few blogs.
Sponsoring events and promoting them also takes time. But if it is a great event, the results will speak for themselves. However it is important to ensure the event is covered in the right channels.
7) “Stop Flogging a Dead Horse”
If an agency has been through all the points above and the potential client does not understand SEO or what it can offer, then this is a clear sign not to work with them. The agency will constantly be justifying itself, reporting all the time and will have no time to implement the SEO recommendations. This will add further proof in the client’s eyes that SEO does not add any real value and is a soul destroying circle.
A partnership is about working together between the agency and the client. For those clients who have explained their objectives to the SEO agency but they do not appear to be taking the points on board, it is probably time to walk away.
Search engine optimisation is about helping increase a company’s online visibility in the search engines. SEO incorporates PR, social media, blogger outreach, image, video search and Google local. It is part of the full online marketing mix and therefore should be included in all stages of website build/redesign as well as promotional activity. If SEO cannot be given the full understanding that it deserves, SEO will not be able show its true value. Instead, SEO should be seen as a long term strategy ingrained in a company’s marketing plan and the results will then speak for themselves.