|  February 28, 2007   |  Comments

Reduced to its simplest form, SEO is a four-step process.

Reduced to its simplest form, SEO (define) is a four-step process: set some ground rules; get your site right; post some great content; and earn inbound links.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? At least, it is until you implement an SEO strategy. Then things can get pretty complex and potentially pricey pretty fast. Be patient. Set goals and monitor progress. All will be well in the end.

Set Some Ground Rules

Odds are pretty good you didn't go into business without a plan. Just as a good business plan sets the foundation of a working enterprise, SEO objectives define your targets and priorities.

Setting business objectives for an SEO strategy is all about putting first things first. What's your SEO campaign's goal? Do you want to increase lead generation by way of improved search engine referrals? Do you want to sell more stuff by improving your site's overall search engine visibility? Is it all about ROI (define)? Or do you need to build your services into a successful brand to improve mindshare?

Set marketing goals and plug SEO into the mix to help fulfill business objectives. Only then can you establish benchmarks for where you are now and where you ultimately want to be.

Get the Site Right

To rank well for targeted keywords and keyword phrases, a site must be well indexed by the major search engines. Often, this is easier said than done:

  • If the site architecture is rooted in dynamic URLs, a URL rewrite is probably necessary for optimal indexing.

  • If the site uses appended URLs, consider redirecting search-referred traffic to canonical URLs to consolidate inbound links and minimize duplicate content.

  • If the site is built on Flash or AJAX (define) or is image-intensive, additional visibility workarounds are in order.

Getting the site successfully indexed is usually the first objective. Since this typically requires some programming or coding time, getting a site indexed doesn't come without associated costs. Just remember, the technical portion of nearly any SEO project usually delivers the most bang for the buck.

Eliminating spider traps and indexation barriers is often considered low-hanging fruit. You may already have great site content and provide products or services that are in demand online. But if the site can't be crawled, it can't be indexed. And if your site can't be indexed, it's highly unlikely you get your fair share of search-referred traffic.

Post Great Content

To lay a working foundation for producing great content, you must conduct some extensive keyword research. A site can't be found for optimal keywords and keyword phrases if those words aren't on the page, behind the page, and rooted in the site's navigation.

If you've got your site right, you learned to build key objects into its architecture to create an optimal situation for producing great content. SEO elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, breadcrumbs, header tags, and body copy should all be influenced by keyword research.

Producing great content is no one-off project. Monitor your benchmarks to ensure keyword selection is on target and producing the desired results, fulfilling your business goals and marketing objections.

Producing great content takes time, money, and a bit of fineness. It's not a singular, momentary task. Producing great content should be considered an ongoing evolution of small projects that contribute to the entirety of the SEO campaign.

Earn Inbound Links

Getting great content on your site is also imperative to another ongoing project inherent to most SEO campaigns: link building. Great content naturally accrues on-topic inbound links. Just as one can never be too rich or too thin, a well-optimized site can never have too many inbound links.

Link building is another ongoing, evolutionary project that exists in lock-step with SEO objectives. It can help improve your site's search engine visibility, grow awareness among a niche audience, encourage mainstream media coverage, build buzz among bloggers, or tap into social media. Not every site needs all these things, so stay true to your goals.

Select link targets wisely. There are really only four types of inbound links: links that help improve direct click traffic, links that help improve search engine positioning, those that do both, and those that do neither.

Recognize your site's unique link potential, then get building. Focus on finding opportunities to accrue keyword-rich, on-topic, quality inbound links to your home page and core category pages. Anchor text links remain optimal, but never turn down any type of link that can help improve your site's search engine visibility.


Although natural SEO can be boiled down into a relatively simple four-step process, every site is different, so different complexities will arise. Every industry has different players, and every business has different goals. Your DIY SEO campaign is an ongoing project, not a one-off, set-it-and-forget-it series of tasks. Get started by analyzing your business objectives.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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