Addressing the 'O' in Search Engine Optimization

Prospective clients often ask a similar question: "So, once you've written the meta information, what else do you do?"

For those who aren't knee deep into SEO on a regular basis, this is a fair question. Truly, SEO is an ongoing process. Many Web sites will see a pretty good bump from SEO once the initial phase of the project is implemented.

The initial phase might include things like the initial keyword research, to determine which keywords are relevant to your business and have a good amount of search volume on a regular basis; the competitive analysis, to determine if your Web site has a chance to rank for those keywords and phrases that you've selected; the site structure analysis, to look for issues that could be preventing your Web site from being crawled and indexed well and find holes in your content strategy for the keywords that you've selected; and the meta recommendations, which includes writing unique title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords, header tags, and content edits, all focused on positioning each page for the targeted keywords and phrases.

But after this point, what do you do?

Well, many ingredients go into a fully baked SEO effort. And, like in cooking, the ingredients will differ on each project.

That said, one constant can help ensure that you're actually optimizing your efforts on a regular basis.

Most SEOs will preach that SEO success isn't (directly) measured by the increasing rankings. You measure success by the growth of organic/natural search engine traffic to the Web site and the growth in leads and sales for your business that can be directly attributed to your SEO efforts.

Even then, we cut the value proposition short on SEO because we don't measure or report against (often times) the indirect value. Perhaps having high rankings has led to an increase in direct type-in traffic for your domain? Perhaps there really is brand value in having this additional exposure in the SERPs? I could go on here, but let's stick to the task at hand.

Optimization Using Your Analytics Data

After you've implemented your initial recommendations, measure the results of your efforts via your analytics. Most of my clients have Google Analytics as their platform, so we'll use this as an example. Other platforms will offer similar data, so you can also follow along.

Note: If you don't have analytics installed on your Web site, you need to sign up and get analytics in place right now. Install it properly and have paid search, product search/shopping feeds broken out from organic search traffic so that you can measure all efforts effectively/correctly.

First, allow at least a couple of weeks to pass after the initial recommendations are fully implemented. Then get into your analytics.

View Traffic Sources/Search Engines/Non-Paid Search traffic. Select a time period that begins on the date the recommendations were implemented and see which keywords you're beginning to see traffic from.

Now sort that traffic by things that matter. For most Web sites, that means selecting Conversion Rate, because this matters most.

However, remember that not all conversion rates are treated equally. We need volume and conversion rate. Be sure to only look at keywords that have driven at least a minimum/baseline amount of traffic to the Web site (each Web site will have its own baseline, so I can't provide this for you).

Once you have a list of keywords that have shown a decent conversion rates (say 2 percent) and have a decent volume of traffic coming to your Web site, you can now look to see where you might rank for these keywords. Before you check the rankings, remove Google's personalization from your search results.

Perhaps one of these keywords that has been driving traffic to your Web site, and converting at a decent rate, is "only" ranking number eight for that keyword phrase on Google. Now, you can strategize on how to move that ranking up into the top positions so that you're getting more of this quality traffic. What might move the needle?

Well, without knowing your particular circumstances, perhaps some internal linking could bump this up a bit. Also, getting additional links to this page from other Web sites (using some form of keyword-rich anchor text within the link, preferably) might do the trick. Other options could include a blog post on the topic, more content added to the Web site around this topic, or press releases written/published/distributed with links pointing back to this ranking page to help you to gain higher rankings/more traffic.

When my firm is first engaged with clients for SEO, I tell them that, while we have a set process that we follow in SEO, without fail we'll need to address items that may not be part of our original agreement. Being retained to provide "optimization" means bringing our entire tool set to every project. We regularly check analytics and look for areas of opportunity to improve, but it's the skilled SEO technician who will determine how the optimization occurs.

For more details on the idea of using your analytics to optimize your Web site, read what Bill Hartzer has written about focusing on keywords that convert.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.