Did You Know: In 2002, Habitat for Humanity set a world record when it built a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in Alabama in only 3 hours, 26 minutes, 34 seconds? It’s true. (official YouTube video) Guess how long it took to plan such an amazing feat….
3 years, 9 months
Nothing great really happens by chance. As the saying goes, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Real success, real accomplishment is always the result of careful planning and preparation — of creating a plan and then executing it. That’s certainly the case with great SEO and online marketing campaigns, and that’s why planning is one of the foundational elements of the SEO Success Pyramid.
How to Plan a Successful SEO Campaign
I love working with clients who bring energy and enthusiasm to an SEO campaign. It’s great to want to jump in and get started on new content development, link building, blogging, and so forth. But first, that energy and enthusiasm has to be channeled into creating a plan that outlines the strategies and tactics that’ll be used.
Step 1: Set Goals
The first step in an SEO plan is to set goals. What problems do you hope the SEO project will solve? You might need more organic traffic, more sales of your red widgets, more sign-ups to your newsletter or community, or more contacts via a lead generation form.
The question I like to ask at this early stage is, How will we measure success? Answer that question and you have your goals.
Step 2: Establish Your SEO Team
This is easy if you’re a one-man-band or a company with only a few employees. But if you’re a small business with multiple departments in your organization, it’s imperative to establish at the start who will be the primary drivers of your SEO campaign. A typical SEO project will touch your Marketing, Product, PR, and IT/Tech departments. And it’ll obviously need sign-off at the executive level.
This is also a good time to discuss other resources that will be needed. For example, do you have an analytics program tracking web site traffic, or do you need to choose one? If you plan to launch a blog, do you have a good writer with a blogger’s personality? Know what you have and what you need in terms of people and resources.
Step 3: Identify Your Audience
Chances are you get a variety of people visiting your web site, but do you know which type of person tends to become a customer most often? You might have a product that appeals mainly to men/husbands, but studies suggest that major purchases are usually decided by women/wives. Know your audience and you’ll be able to tailor your copy for better SEO success.
Step 4: Choose Appropriate Strategies/Tactics
There’s no fixed solution here. Every company is unique, and every SEO campaign has to be unique, too. Knowing your goals, your available resources, and your intended audience will help you choose the right strategies and tactics for your SEO campaign. Be careful not to try too much at the start. I believe it’s better to move slowly and do a few things very well than to spread your company so thin that the campaign as a whole suffers from lack of accomplishment.
Step 5: Measure Your Results
Plan on tracking your results closely, but realize that SEO is not about overnight success. Like many other search marketers, I tell most clients it usually takes 3-6 months to see any tangible results from most SEO tactics. The actual time depends on the competitiveness of your industry and a host of other factors that are out of your control.
Step 6: Adjust and Repeat
SEO is an ongoing process, not a one-time effort that can be turned off like a TV when the show is over. After a few months you should have a good idea of what worked and what didn’t. Plan on using the data you have to eliminate the underperforming strategies and tactics. Go back to Step 1 — do you need to re-examine your goals? Go back to Step 2 — did you put together the right team? Continual evaluation of your success and failures should be part of every SEO plan.
This has been an attempt to simplify what can sometimes be a complex process. I’ve purposely left out the discussion on doing SEO yourself vs. hiring an SEO consultant, and I’ve also ignored any mention of budgeting. Both of these are important parts of planning an SEO campaign; this article assumes you’ve made those decisions already.
The main point I hope to make here is that you must devote time to planning. “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail” is a truism that fits small business SEO campaigns. Be enthusiastic, but first channel that enthusiasm into developing a winning plan for your online marketing efforts.
Your turn: What would you add to this list of SEO campaign planning steps?