So, you are the marketing manager of your firm, and you've finally decided to pull the trigger and hire the search engine optimization company that you've been talking to for months. The budget has been cleared, the SEO firm is ready to start, and it should be just a matter of time before you start seeing a huge uptick in business. Right?
Not so fast.
An experienced search engine optimization company will tell you that an ill-planned campaign can be a non-starter from day one. This usually happens when there is no clear understanding of what will be required of the client to make the project run smoothly.
What follows is a list of just a few of the things that your search engine optimization company will need from you in order for the company to get its job done as effectively and quickly as possible. It's a good idea to consider these things before you sign the contract - because a stalled campaign will cost you money, even if it is just lost opportunity cost.
Access to and Control of Your Website
You may be ready to do whatever it takes to take the steps necessary for a successful SEO campaign. Your IT team, on the other hand, may have ultimate control of the website. This only makes sense - an internal IT team that controls the website knows the ins and outs and doesn't want anyone jeopardizing the functionality of the site. However, an SEO campaign will usually require extensive changes to the site - and you don't want to hit a brick wall when you bring recommended changes to the IT staff or ask them to give your search engine optimization company access to the testbed. Make sure that you have an understanding with them before you sign on with a firm, lest you suffer delays and internal strife.
Additionally, it is important that you can get access to either the log files of your website or to the current reporting platform. Before a search engine optimization company begins work on your site, you want to be sure that you have a baseline of current search referred traffic. Without this, you'll have nothing to brag about later - and no way to hold your firm accountable if results do not turn out as planned.
For more on achieving buy-in from different departments within your organization before embarking on an SEO campaign, please see this article.
Control of Your Website Copy
If internal politics are such that you have to consult with every department in your organization in order to get website copy changed, it's imperative that you make sure you have this process streamlined before you bring in your search engine optimization company.
There are many reasons why several departments may be involved in the content of your website. For example, mortgage brokers, medical offices, and investment firms (to name but a few) will almost certainly need to run copy changes through the legal department before they go live on your website. If your company sells complicated software, for example, the copy may need to be run by the developers to be verified for accuracy.
No matter how your internal politics work, make sure you are on the same page with all the people who will be involved in the copy approval process before you start the project.
Awareness of Current Code Limitations
Your prospective search engine optimization company should be able to look at how your website is constructed and let you know if there are limitations that may impede your ability to implement recommendations that can help your search engine optimization efforts.
For example, there are many CMS (Content Management Systems) that will not allow changes to be made that are beneficial to search engines. While many of the new systems are "SEO friendly," many of the older ones are not. Updating your CMS to one that allows changes to be made for maximum SEO benefit may incur additional costs. If your search engine optimization company has been around for a while, they should be able to steer you in the right direction and, indeed, help you and your IT team to switch to a more SEO friendly platform.
Change like this can sometimes be difficult - another reason why you must be committed to SEO and achieve the buy-in from your IT team before you embark on a campaign.
The largest commodity that most marketing managers do not have is time. Frequently, there are innumerable campaigns running at once, and outsourcing SEO to a search engine optimization company may make you feel that it is done and off your plate. Alas, this is rarely the case. A good search engine optimization company will take the requisite time to learn as much about your business as it possibly can, but the fact remains that nobody knows your business as well as you do.
This means that you will have to be involved in the SEO process. If you can't dedicate an hour a week to offering feedback, approving changes, and making sure that the work being done is consistent with your overall message, there will be large delays in the project.
Set aside one hour per week to make sure everything is running smoothly. If you make SEO a back-burner issue after you have hired a search engine optimization company, you will lose money in opportunity cost (and very likely in project cost, since SEO is normally billed on a monthly basis).
Your chosen search engine optimization company, if you have done your due diligence, is ready to help you to maximize your exposure on the Internet and help you to reach your online goals. However, it is essential that you review the required resources and relationships before you sign on the dotted line. You will save yourself a lot of headaches and see results much more quickly if you do.
Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue, which was recently named the number one search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.
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