Three Questions to Ask Before Initiating an SEO Strategy

If you’re actively pursuing a working strategy to get more search-referred traffic channeled to your Web site, then you’re probably considering launching a major SEO (define) initiative.

Before you send your first requests for proposals or prepare to undertake the project in-house, consider what you’re willing — and not willing — to do to improve your site’s search engine positioning.

Let’s start with the basics that will help determine your path toward building an SEO strategy. The first question you must ask yourself is, what are the business objectives for your Web site? Do you want to increase traffic, increase sales, improve visibility, generate leads, increase yielding pages, or something else?

Before you can set your sights on garnering greater search engine referrals, consider targeting specific areas of your business that can provide demonstrative results.

It’s important that you be specific about your online business goals and objectives before you launch a natural search optimization program. It’s equally important that you be as specific and realistic as possible.

If you want to increase sales by 5 percent, for example, you need to factor in current conversion rates, average sales, and current visitor data to get a good idea of how much more search-referred traffic you need to attain your goals. You should also be aware of where your site stands compared with industry standards.

You’d better have access to your site’s Web stats to prepare SEO goals. Reviewing historical data is a critical step in establishing online business objectives. It’s also a step you need to take to prepare to analyze SEO strategy results.

Elements to review include:

  • Number of monthly visitors to your site

  • Percentage of visitors originating from search engine referrals
  • Number of sales per month
  • Average sales value per visitor
  • Total sales value
  • Your site’s conversion rates

Include any other metrics that relate to your business objectives. You might want to analyze historical seasonal peaks and valleys in online sales. If your online business has wild seasonal swings, consider how this could impact an SEO implementation schedule. You don’t want to set yourself up to fail by trying to allocate internal or external resources when they’re already stretched thin due to seasonal demands.

Web analytics should also provide insight into your target audiences’ demographics. A search strategy varies greatly if the primary target audience consists of tweens or baby boomers. By associating a value to core demographic elements of your business, you can equally prioritize SEO strategy elements.

If you don’t have a Web analytics package in place, get something up and running now. There are plenty of options available on the Web. Just remember, you get what you pay for. Don’t bother building an SEO strategy until you know where your site stands. Without proper benchmarking, you’ll never know if your strategy worked or not.

The beauty of implementing a natural SEO strategy is when your plan is complete, search referrals tend to keep growing long after the bulk of the work is done. Unlike PPC (define) campaigns that can produce immediate results, it takes time for a wholly optimized site to reach maturity.

This brings us to the final question you must ask prior to commending an SEO strategy: how far are you willing to go to improve your site’s search-referred traffic?

Consider what parts of your site are sacred. What particular site portions or functions can or can’t be modified? If there are significant SEO benefits, would you consider modifying the content and the design of your site?

Making content or design changes to the home page and other high-level site pages can dramatically enhance search engine visibility. Are you willing and technologically able to revise your site’s structure and navigation to achieve better search engine positioning? How much flexibility do you have with page and linking structures built into the current site?

Elements to consider include the site URL structure and what rules or style guides are in place for design and layout. Are you able to dedicate resources to making SEO changes on your native Web site? A good SEO plan should be able to adapt to a site’s ability to change, but a great SEO strategy includes the “whys” behind the recommendations and what happens when tradeoffs occur.

If you’ve done your homework, assessed your business objectives, analyzed your site statistics, and considered what you’re willing to change on your site, you’re ready to take the next step and find a business partner who will help build your SEO strategy.

The search engines are actively referring self-qualified traffic to sites like yours right now. Are you ready to get your fair share out of search?

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

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