This search engine optimisation (SEO) tutorial has the objective of introducing you to the initial stages of the search engine optimisation process. By reading the information below you will learn:
- How to start your search engine optimisation process
- How to prepare for the first meeting that initiates your SEO project
Why should I read this search engine optimisation tutorial?
You should read this if you are new to SEO and need to manage an SEO project but don’t have much experience of the area. The success of any initial meeting whether with external agencies or an internal team will depend on how well the team members are prepared for the meeting and the subsequent project management and dedication of your team members.
One of the key aspects of search engine optimisation (SEO) is that web pages and their content are developed and written in such a way that they are both appealing for website visitors (or your prospects) and search engines. Therefore, prior to commencing any SEO activity, the website aim and objectives have to be agreed and shared with all concerned. For example, is your website primarily aimed at selling goods or services online or do you have other objectives such as profile and brand visibility raising? The answers to these questions will determine to some extent the scope and objectives of the Search and Social Media Marketing (SSMM) campaign you are trying to define at the SEO project initiation meeting:
Search Engine Optimisation – the preparation for the SEO project initiation meeting
Search Engine Optimisation could be done in-house or with the help of an external agency; regardless of this it is important to have a clear vision in terms of what you are aiming to achieve at the outset. Most Search Engine Optimisation campaigns have four main objectives:
- Conversions (i.e. number of products purchased, enquiries or leads generated etc.)
- Awareness (i.e. the number of visitors to the website per month, duration that people spend on the site etc.)
- Positioning on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) (how high up are you appearing on the search engine results pages for keywords that are relevant for your site?)
- Link popularity (i.e. the number of high quality external links to your site)
For each of these objectives it is very simple to create benchmarks at the outset of the project. These benchmarks would depend largely on whether the website you are developing is new or old. However, the current SEO tutorial only deals with a website that is already in existence, obviously the Search and Social Media Marketing programme will provide you with information on new websites too.
1. Conversion tracking
Why is conversion tracking important? If you want to see or have a feel for the Return on Your Investment (ROI) in terms of SEO spend, it is useful to see how “hard” your website works for you, hence conversion tracking is a good measure and tracking online sales could be a direct indicator of how good your site is working for you.
To set a benchmark for your conversions there are a number of tools that could be used to track the current number of people who have successfully used the contact form on your website. This SEO tutorial only deals with the Google Analytics tool. Google Analytics is a free tool that can be used for detailed data mining of your website users’ behaviour. One of the features of Google analytics is that you can set Conversion Goals. Assuming that you already have Google Analytics installed (follow the step by step instructions, this will require your webmaster to upload code to all web pages of your site, or if you are using a blogging tool such as WordPress it might be a simple download of a plug-in and customisation of that).
Now that you have your Google Analytics set-up, log in to your account and click the edit button:
Once you are in the Profile Settings page of your domain name, scroll down and find a section on Goals:
Here you have the option to add up to 20 conversion Goals (as offered by Google in September 2010 at the time of writing this SEO tutorial). Now simply click on the Add goal button and enter details as required. For example, you can now enter the Goal name such as the number of people who clicked on the contacts web page.
Please note: At this point it is important to highlight the issue of accuracy of any data generated through such conversions – these are only indicative of your website user behaviour and are never 100% accurate.
Can you see a need for customer relationship management that pulls this information together and reports on the findings? Even this does not resolve the accuracy issue since some prospects might have seen your advert in a newspaper, then followed it up on the search engines and enquired on some online forums about you prior to picking up the phone. Think of the decision-making for a typical hotel booking.
So, you have now entered the information for your goals by following the on-screen instructions dependent on the goal you have chosen.
Please note: you will need at least a month or so to get some meaningful data on this goal conversion – hence the reason to do this activity well before the meeting you have with your team to talk strategy.
Similar to conversion tracking, awareness tracking allows you to capitalise on the installed Google analytics tool.
2. Awareness tracking
Why is awareness tracking important? For a number of products your consumers’ decision making might take time and they may have to engage with your products and services until they make the decision to contact you. This measure is useful for you to see how the information that you have on your web pages is received by your visitors – if they leave very quickly resulting in a high “bounce rate”, either the content of your web pages needs revising or they were misled when they arrived on that page. If you find that people are staying on your website for a long time and visit several pages before they leave the site, this means that your content is useful and you are offering them what is required. In terms of marketing, it is good that whilst prospects are on your site they might remember your brand name, logo etc and this will hopefully result in a repeat visit (so called “stickability” of your site).
Follow the steps for setting up your Goals in Google analytics and instead of choosing the Goal Type as URL Destination simply select either Time on Site or Pages/Visit. Of course you can set several awareness tracking goals. These have similar caveats as the Conversion tracking but will at least provide you with a trend and over a longer period of time a good indication of how your SEO project is progressing.
3. Positioning on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP)
Why is positioning so important? Several research studies have found that being on the first three SERPs – in other words in the first 30 results is essential to having your website noticed by your prospects. The ideal position in SERP is being number one for a keyword that is highly relevant to your work; this position is inevitably contested by a number of your competitors and does usually take time and resources to achieve.
The positioning on a Search Engine Results Pages is perhaps the easiest of measures. Although there are some research tools that could generate this information for you, it is advisable to simply spend the time and based on the keyword that you think you want to be ranking highly, search for this in the main three search engines. For example, in the UK these are Google, Yahoo and Bing. Note the position of your website – it is a great benchmark for your work. Bear in mind that the keywords you set out to measure against are not necessarily the ones you will have at the end of an SEP project, but the chances are this will give you an indication of how your project is progressing.
4. Link popularity
Why is Link popularity important? There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is that the number of high quality links to your site signals your website’s importance to the search engine. This goes back to the Google PageRank algorithm (named after one of the founders of Google – Larry Page) which measures the importance of each individual web page in relation to the others that are linking to it. This means pages on your website and most importantly web pages on other websites.
Link popularity can be measured simply by going to the search engines you are targeting, again the big three in the UK are Google, Yahoo and Bing and entering the following information noting down the number of pages that are indexed by search engines as if they contain links to your website.
Using the following syntax: www.searchmarketing.salford.ac.uk
For example www.searchmarketing.salford.ac.uk
Go to www.Google.co.uk and enter your website name in the search window using the following syntax: link:www.searchmarketing.salford.ac.uk
Please note that you need to keep the www prefix to your website.
For example link:www.searchmarketing.salford.ac.uk
Go to http://www.bing.com and enter your website name in the search window using the following syntax:
Please note that you don’t need to use the www prefix. For example, to see the number of links for the search marketing website you can enter the following information:
The above four objectives are a useful indicator of your website’s performance at any time but are very helpful for your first project initiation meeting.
If you are still reading this, the chances are that you are determined to take something useful from this SEO tutorial. Although this tutorial has highlighted some preparatory elements, you have also learned the reasons for their importance and the potential direction that your project is going to take.
SEO project important issues
The other issues that you need to consider as part of your SEO project are the resources that you have and this includes your staff time and funds. These decisions are important at the outset, since any organic SEO practices essentially mean someone spending time on researching the content and developing the on-site and off-site elements of your campaign, which can take weeks or months.
Good organic SEO projects span years
Good organic SEO projects span years. However, if you are thinking of quick results than perhaps a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign is your answer. These can be up and running in a day and start generating results almost in a matter of hours. However, any good SEO projects would use a combination of the two approaches to SEO – Organic SEO that is the long term strategic improvement of your website’s content and PPC SEO that helps tactically with your present situation.
As you can see, project initiation is the first step that sets the tone and direction for your SEO project and as part of our Search and Social Media Marketing programme you will learn more about how to prepare for the project initiation meeting and how to use tools that could help you to speed up this process.