How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO Plan


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You may have read about how natural search is now one of the most promising customer acquisition channels at your
disposal. Yet, it's often hard to develop a strategy from scratch. In this how-to guide, we'll walk through every step of the
process to get your SEO program set up - from making the case for natural search, to getting buy-in, to beginning to
measure ROI from your eorts.

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How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO Plan

  1. 1. researchHow-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanBy Nathan Safran, Director of Research
  2. 2. 2How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanYou may have read about how natural search is now one of the most promising customer acquisition channels at yourdisposal. Yet, its often hard to develop a strategy from scratch. In this how-to guide, well walk through every step of theprocess to get your SEO program set up - from making the case for natural search, to getting buy-in, to beginning tomeasure ROI from your efforts.Step 1: Understand the Opportunity in Natural SearchThe first step in any marketing endeavor is to understand the size of the opportunity for your company in your vertical.There are plenty of search market opportunity calculators out there that can help by letting you input the keywords youcare about, and your current rank to calculate your current market share. Before doing anything else, go through thisexercise. It will help you understand the size of your current market and your position within it, and you will leverage theanalysis in future steps to help make the business case to management.Step 2: Grab the Quick, Easy WinsNow that you’ve established the size of the opportunity, before approaching management to lobby for budget, we’regoing grab some quick wins in the search engine listings so that when you do make your case for budget you’ll have somerecent traffic/conversion increases from search that can be offered as a ‘taster’ of what could be achieved with a budgetcommitment.One way of capturing some quick wins in search is to target ‘striking distance’ keywords—keywords for which you arecurrently ranking on page 2 of the search results. Identify a handful of keywords for which you are ranking on page 2.These keywords should walk the line between 1) having enough monthly searches that the incremental traffic you receivefrom moving up the search rankings is enough to be interesting to management, but 2) not too many searches so as to betoo competitive (and therefore too difficult to make headway).After using these criteria to choose your striking-distance keyword set, develop some content, tweak on-page factors suchas title tags or get out there and build some links to get them moving up the search rankings onto page one.
  3. 3. 3How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanStep 3: Buy-In, Buy-In, Buy-InNow that you’ve got (1) your market opportunity assessment and (2) quick wins in hand, you’re going to shine your shoes,put on your Sunday best and make the case to your organization to buy-in to natural search as a legitimate traffic andsales channel. Do this with the one-two punch of the potential of the channel with the market assessment and the quickwins that show what can be achieved with proper budget allocation.Although it would be easier if everyone at your company recognized the opportunity in search as clearly as you, for mostSEO professionals, getting company buy-in is an ongoing process that often takes place throughout the year. And, thereare two groups to whom you will be appealing: management for budgetary buy-in, and the rest of the organizationwhose help you will need to enlist to be able to make real progress in the search results.Watch out for the classic blunder that many make in striving to make a case to the organization by talking aboutsearch-centric rather than revenue-centric metrics. The CMO doesn’t care if you have moved from position 12 to position6 for a keyword, though he does care that revenue from search has increased by 28%.(If you have persistent issues in getting management buy-in to search, check out Overcoming the Catch 22 of Investing InSearch Without Proof of Success for a more detailed approach in how to win budget.)Step 4: Discover Competitive LandscapeAs you start to gain some traction in the search engine results pages by capturing the quick, easy wins, start to pay a bitmore attention to the competitive landscape by tracking who is appearing in the search results around you for yourkeywords. You may discover that they are not who you think they are-for example, if you are a brick and mortar retaileryou may compete primarily with A, B and C in the ‘real’ world and discover you compete with X, Y, and Z in the searchresults/digital landscape. Knowing who your competition is in search will help guide your strategic response to enableyou to leapfrog the competition, whoever they turn out to be.
  4. 4. 4How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanStep 5: Scale your Keyword SetBy now, hopefully you have gotten management buy-in, maybe you finagled some resource commitments from the ITteam or content creators, and you’ve gotten your feet wet with some quick wins. Long-term, successful SEO is aboutmoving up the rankings for your existing keyword set, but it’s also about expanding your zone of coverage with newkeywords you will optimize, create content for, and ultimately leverage to drive traffic to your website. It’s time to expandyour keyword set so that you can start driving more traffic from additional sources.Ideas for new keywords can come from many sources, including:• Competitive Analysis: A great source for new keyword ideas is the competitive analysis you did in theprevious step. Discover the keywords where your competitors are eating your lunch and start optimizingand developing content for them.• Web Analytics: Keywords that are already driving some traffic to your website that, with some focusedoptimization, can move up the search rankings to drive additional traffic• Internal Sources: Product names, collateral, internal brainstorming• Online Channels: Gather keyword ideas from other online marketing channels such as paid search, socialmedia and email marketing.• Keyword Suggestion Tools: Tools such as Google’s Adwords Tool let you input a keyword and it will spitout suggestions for similar terms. pulls keyword suggestions from multiple sources, enablingyou to gather many keyword ideas at once.
  5. 5. How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO EffortsStep 6: Build a Content Strategy & CalendarIn 2012 the search algorithms placed significant emphasis on quality content, penalizing sites producing “thin” or nocontent, while rewarding sites producing quality content in an ongoing fashion. Producing quality content will be criticalto your natural search success and now that you’ve seen some initial success and built out your keyword list the time isright to build out your content strategy for the year ahead. Start small by producing quality content around your keywordlist on a regular basis before graduating to more sophisticated content types such as infographics and full length articles.Step 7: Increase Social Presence in SearchHand-in-hand with a strong content strategy goes a social media strategy. Social media can be used to drive traffic to thecontent you create and to engage with content consumers, and increasingly, social results are appearing in the searchresults. Make sure you have a presence on the ‘majors’ such as Twitter and Facebook, and although there remains somequestion as to the extent of user engagement on Google+, make sure you have presence there too since, Googleincreasingly leveraging these social signals in ranking algorithms.5How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanStep 8: Utilize Digital Assets for Visibility in Universal SearchDigital assets including pictures and videos are increasingly appearing in the search results. A recent study found eightout of ten high volume keywords now have digital assets in the search results. As you become increasingly sophisticatedin your SEO practice, start developing digital assets for your most valuable keywords. Not only will you capture more realestate on the search engine results pages with a digital asset such as a video or image, but it provides a good way toconnect with users.
  6. 6. How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanStep 9: Measure ROI from your SEO EffortsNow that you’ve scaled your keywords and hit a groove developing content, it’s important to be able to measure theimpact your efforts are having on your online traffic and sales. In this step, it is time to make sure your website’s analyticspackage is set up to track conversions and get some training or spend time working with the software to the point thatyou are comfortable extracting insight about the content that is and is not working. Doing so will give you the benefit ofallowing you to make adjustments to your content strategy to increase conversion rates and it will help you continue tojustify budget to management. As you become more comfortable with analytics, you can become increasinglysophicated and learn more advanced functionality-such as segmenting visitors-to derive more insight about who iscoming to your website.6
  7. 7. How-to Guide: Ten Steps to Jump-Start Your SEO PlanStep 10: Use Advanced SEO TechnologyBy now, you’re pushing content out regularly, you’re developing digital assets for the SERPs, and you have a presence onthe social networks. Together with your newfound web analytics proficiency that gives you insight into your web traffic, itmay be time to take a close look at advanced SEO technology that will give you similar insight into your search landscape.Technology options run the gamut from basic software tools all the way to full-featured enterprise SEO technologyplatforms with a dedicated account rep., but some of the benefits the technology will give you include:• Automation: Technology can help automate previously manual activities such as reporting and on-pageauditing. Time savings from manual activities can then be applied to high-impact activities such aslink-building and content creation.• Competitive Analysis/Discovery: In a previous step you began basic competitive discovery via manualmethods, but as you have scaled your keywords, manual methods will not scale with you. Technology canautomate competitive tracking and will automatically discover new competitors you were not previouslyaware of. Knowing about competitors can give you a competitive advantage and drive a strategic responsethat can grow traffic and revenue.• Mine Big Data for Insight: Technology can be the key that unlocks volumes of natural searchdata-backlinks, search visibility data, competitive analysis, social network activity, digital assets -previouslyinaccessible via manual mechanisms. Aside from the insight from big data technology unlocks that can beused to grow traffic and revenue, the natural search insight that technology enables can also be leveraged forother areas of business such as informing product strategy, mining for consumer trends and understanding theon and offline competitive landscape.Conclusion: Get Started on the Path to SEO SuccessNatural search is among the most important inbound channels a Marketer has at his or her disposal, but knowing whereto start can be daunting. Resolve to tap into this wellspring of traffic and sales by following the progressiveplan laid out above, and soon youll start to see returns on your investment, as well as increased brand recognition.Visit to see why thousands ofbrands choose Searchlight™ to manage their SEO success:• Monitor search visibility• Find new traffic opportunities• Prove & report search ROI• Prioritize & manage workflow7