One term I hear quite frequently that is often ambiguous is the concept of a search "strategy."
Does the word strategy refer to how to execute particular parts of the overall campaign? Or does it refer to the sum of the different parts of the campaign? Or rather does it refer to how we are going to prioritize resources or even prioritize SEO opportunities?
Does strategy refer to how we are going to integrate organic search optimization activities with other disciplines like social media, paid search, analytics as well as all other online and offline marketing activities?
Depending on who you ask, it means all of the above.
So with so much potential confusion around the term SEO strategy, what follows is one basic approach to enterprise SEO campaigns which can really be scaled to any size organization.
It's important to address eight elements of SEO in a two phased approach:
- The foundational phase, in which we leverage the inherent values of the site, and
- The continuous phase, in which we concentrate on program growth, primarily through new content production, link acquisition and social media marketing.
Without diving too deep into the eight elements, here is my list and my definition of each element or category of activities. Keep in mind that this is an arbitrary way to categorize the different sorts of tasks that are essential in a campaign:
- Discovery: Understanding the business model, user personas, and ultimately the most important keywords for the campaign.
- On-page Optimization: Aligning Page Titles, Meta data, H tags, alt tags and content to the target keywords.
- Off-page Optimization: Optimization of internal and external links.
- Site-wide SEO: Technical issues based on known best practices including duplicate content issues, indexing problems, URL structure or any other technical problem that affects your SEO performance.
- Universal Search: Optimization of images, PDFs, shopping feeds, local search, and – most importantly – video.
- Analytics: Ensuring that there is an analytics infrastructure to support reporting requirements.
- User Experience: Evaluate and improve important user experience metrics like site speed, bounce rate, and time on site.
- Social Media: Blogging alignment with SEO best practice, communicating keywords and preferred landing pages to all social teams, ensuring that high value URLs are shared via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as evaluate possible SEO benefits from aligning any other social media activities with SEO best practices.
Each of these different elements has a different set of activities within each phase of the program. Some activities are the same across both phases. For example, the on page optimization process is very similar in both phases. In other words, the process for optimizing a new page of content (continuous phase activity) is the same as optimizing a previously existing page of content (foundational phase activity) although, in the continuous phase we might be making additional tweaks to the optimization over the course of time.
However, the link building tactics are mostly different. In the foundational phase the only link building we do is around easily executed and scalable activities like press release optimization or partner link optimization.
Whereas in the continuous phase, the emphasis is on content marketing and campaign based opportunities. The idea being that content marketing is often more difficult to execute with higher risk.
Therefore, those activities should be done only after one fully leverages the existing opportunities that easier to control. This allows for more effective prioritization of resources.
In other words, you may already rank well in Google for a particular phrase by doing the easy stuff in which case you can focus your link building efforts around terms that have a greater opportunity for improvement.
To properly allocate resources and strategically address all areas of potential optimization, you can use the following standard process for each of the two phases that gets customized based on the needs of the client.
Here is a basic cadence for the foundational phase:
- Discover the goals of the business, program goals, understand customer persona data if available.
- Ensure that there is an analytics system in place that supports performance measurement that tracks to goals and that it is properly configured.
- Technical diagnostic to ensure problems with indexation:
- Eliminate duplicate content.
- Optimize page speed.
- URL structure.
- Canonical tags.
- Flash/Ajax issues.
And here is a basic cadence for the continuous phase:
- Performance monitoring.
- Performance reporting.
- Ad hoc adjustments to existing on-page optimization based on performance.
- Content gap analysis.
- Keyword research:
- Refinement of existing target list.
- Opportunity exploration.
- Ad hoc for new content.
- On-page (page titles, meta data, H tags, content).
- Off-page (internal links, linked alt attributes).
- Competitive research.
- Content ideation.
- Content creation.
- Content marketing.
- Campaign management and reporting.
This entire process can be scaled across multiple regions with the only real tangible difference being the translation and localization in the keyword research to ensure that you're targeting the appropriate localized keywords for your business model.
Now admittedly this isn't a complete comprehensive list of all activities nor am I going to go into great length on how to execute these tasks. For example I haven't mentioned user testing to improve bounce rate and conversion or SEO best practices training for content teams.
What this should give you is a solid foundation on the basics of constructing an enterprise SEO program that makes sense, is efficient, and maximizes your resources. In other words, it's a pretty solid SEO strategy.