When putting the framework for a solid optimization campaign you have to spend some time evaluating various aspects of your site. This evaluation gives you an idea of any shortcomings the site has, what will be required to overcome the competition, and will then allow you to map out an effective strategy for success. But there is more to the evaluation than just looking at how the website currently performs in the on- and off-page analysis.
In the first two parts of this series I addressed which on- and off-page elements that need to be analyzed in order for you to determine the actions necessary to create a successful campaign. But before this type of analysis is performed, there is another crucial aspect that should be analyzed first.
It is nearly impossible to develop a successful marketing campaign without having a firm understanding the business itself and the goals that are to be achieved. This is true for both the SEO hired to "get results" or the business owner who is managing their own SEO campaign. I'm often surprised by the number of people I talk to each day who cannot articulate, in a meaningful way, what they do, why people should buy from them, or what they hope to achieve with the marketing campaign.
These people certainly know their business, but for many these aspects have not been well thought out. That's not to suggest that these businesses won't succeed, but without a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, success can only be what it is determined it to be on a day to day basis. Having a solid grasp of who you are and what you expect are fundamental keys to developing a successful marketing campaign.
Before we take on a new client, and before we even analyze their website, we ask a handful of questions that help us get a better understanding of the business. Even if you're putting together the campaign for your own site, being able to answer these questions completely and thoroughly is vital to being able to create a marketing campaign that works.
What do you do?
It sounds like a silly question, especially when you're talking to them with the website open right in front of you. But what I have often found is that the home page of a website doesn't articulate clearly enough--or simply enough--what it is that they do. I ask each prospect to tell me in their own words. What I find is that I'm given a pretty good synopsis that will make for great copy at some later point.
In getting answers to this question you want go get as much detail as possible. Do they just sell auto parts or do they sell top brand parts for hard to find makes and models of cars, trucks and SUVs? Do they sell baby toys or do the sell educational toys and activity ideas that stimulate your baby's learning process? Some follow up questions would include: Do you sell body parts of just engine parts? Do you offer satisfaction guarantees? Do you manufacture the toys or simply resell them? Have the toys been tested to be safe? Are the toys truly educational or is that just marketing jargon?
In determining the possibilities for a successful online marketing campaign you really can't know too much about a business. The more you know they better you'll be able to strategize and develop a campaign that meets the full businesses needs rather than just a part.
Who is your target audience?
I've found that people often simplify their target audience a bit too much. "I'm targeting anybody who wants to buy X". Well, sure you want to sell to anybody who wants to buy your product, but who is it that wants to buy your product? Are they parents with kids, or single adults? Are they frugal or environmentally cautious? Are they indoor or outdoor sports enthusiasts? Do they own businesses? What are their income levels?
These are all important questions to ask and once you start getting some thought behind the answers it opens up the door for more. The information you gather here will be useful in choosing keywords, looking at site design and usability issues and even determining how the on-page content will be written.
You'll also be able to compare the information you receive here against your main competition. Find out f they are targeting a similar audience or if they are going after an entirely different demographic. With all this information in hand you are able to get a good grasp on which direction to take and how to leverage yourself against your competition.
Makes you unique?
Surprisingly, this is a difficult question for some to answer, but it's a crucial one for any business. If you can't tell me what makes you different or better than your competitors then there really is no reason for people to buy from you over someone else. The most successful businesses are not those that do something unique, they just do it in a way that is unique compared to everybody else. And that's crucial to understand.
You really need to answer the question, "why you?" That's what Google is trying to determine when analyzing websites and deciding which pages get first page placement. If you can't articulate an answer then Google will find someone who can and does to put in those top positions. And if you can't do what you do uniquely, then dive in the realm of information. Provide better content, more helpful tutorials or articles that draw people in, not because you have better products, but because you've gone out of your way to meet their needs. Do that well enough and you can become unique in your own right.
What are your goals?
Most say they want top rankings. A few, however understand that rankings are not the goal, they are just a means. Before I jump into a marketing campaign I need to know what the goals are. Are you trying to achieve first page placement or do you want to grow your business? If you could doubled your income would it matter that the site wasn't found on the first 100 pages of Google?
That's a pretty serious question. Most people, if they are honest, would say that they would love to double their business. Unfortunately, though, too many still focus on rankings as if that's the definition of running a successful business. If that was the case then any business not listed on the Fortune 500 would be considered a failure.
When it comes to search engine rankings, everybody wants to be on the Google 10 or better. At least the fortune 500 has 500 hundreds opportunities to make the list. Google only has 10 and people think that if they are not there then they are a failure. Yes, rankings help achieve business growth, but rankings should not be the goal. Business growth should be the goal.
Your success needs to be determined by more than just where you get exposure for yourself. What you need to do is to set goals in line with the nature of your business. If you are purely an informational site that sells ad space then page views are a good measure. If you sell products or services then the sale are the measure and beyond that, making a profit from each sale.
If you don't set the proper measures for success then it is entirely likely to achieve your goals but find that you're still not getting what you need to be successful. It's important that your goals make sense and really have real meaning for the business, not just an ego boost.
What are your expectations?
This question is critical for the SEO to know, whether that is an outsourced company or an in-house team or individual. If I'm the one managing the marketing campaign, I want to know what the expectations are of me? This involves communication, tactics, education expectations, reporting and overall management of the campaign.
Some clients want to pass everything off to the SEO team and let them do their thing. Others want to know what's going on each step of the process. What the site owner or manager expects is important to know otherwise you can be in danger of providing too much information or too little feedback. Either can make you appear as if you're not doing enough of the "right" things.
What are your budget constraints?
This is the question that nobody wants to answer. In part it's because many don't really know how much SEO costs. The fact that they can get quotes ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars doesn't help. Often they will tell you that they haven't set a budget because they are shopping around. But everybody has a breaking point. There is a number that they won't be willing to go past for any kind of campaign.
Getting at least a rough idea of the budget for the campaign can help you figure out what can or can't be accomplished. For the SEO quoting the project it can give them a good idea of whether you'll be able to service the client effectively or not. For an in-house team it will let them figure out what is most necessary and then focus their initial efforts accordingly.
Be careful that when setting a budget, or quoting a project, that you don't undercut yourself. A solid SEO campaign requires an investment. If you're unable or unwilling to spend the money necessary to be successful then you'll have nothing but an ineffective optimization campaign and will, in the long run, end up spending more for less.
Once you've got a firm handle on the business side of things you're ready to start diving into the site analysis that I've outlined in parts one and two of this series. This analysis will help you uncover pretty much everything you need to know about the site and will enable to to develop a campaign that you're confident can and will be successful. There is no better way to start a project than knowing you have all the pieces in place to make that campaign a financial success.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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