Search Engine Optimization Project Checklist
The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of search engine optimization processes and can be used as part of a larger project plan or as a reference guide when working with a search engine optimization consulting firm.
Document project goals and expectations
Your sales and marketing objectives are part of your business plan. Should you choose to hire a search engine optimization consulting firm, then you will need to be prepared to discuss your sales goals, site optimization budget, timeframe for implementation and ongoing site optimization strategy. Keep in mind that optimizations are not implemented with immediate effect and require regular monitoring and adjustment.
Vendor research and review
There are many SEO consulting firms the will provide not only existing site optimization, but also assist in content generation and site design. It is especially important to research vendors that offer optimization services. There are many firms that use so-called “black-hat” techniques, which can ultimately result in your site being banned from search engine listings. Request references and be wary of any company that promises a particular rank in any of the popular search engines. Search engine technologies are constantly evolving, and optimization companies have no direct influence over unpaid placement in any of the major search engines.
Vendor contract and payment
As with any service, avoid paying the entire value of the contract up-front. Use milestone payments for larger contracts.
Research and Analysis
Do your homework! Search engines account for a large percentage of all web site traffic (percentage varies by report – I’ve seen anything from 80-90%). The more that you understand about the process, the better you will be able to gauge the success of this marketing strategy. The fundamentals include:
- Understand how search engine optimization works and understand the limits of the optimization processes. Remember, consulting firms cannot guarantee a particular ranking. Read up on optimization best practices, and understand how some of the optimization tricks and cheats can get you into trouble.
- Draft a listing of keywords that you think may be applicable to your site. If you have already developed content, then these keywords should be strongly reflected in the content, page titles and headers of your web pages.
- Evaluate costs / benefits of various options, including hiring an SEO firm, completing the optimizations yourself, using paid placements (e.g. Google AdWords)
- Keyword research – It’s important for you to research keywords you think summarize the content provided on your web site. This research will help refine your content and drive the overall optimization marketing plan. There are various methods for researching keywords, including brainstorming, conducting customer surveys, and keyword research tools. http://www.seochat.com offers a number of such tools.
- Identify and document top URLs across multiple search engines – where do your competitors rank in the search engine results? Are there areas of specialization that differentiate you from your primary competitors? How do these specializations rank in search engine results?
- Industry publications back link opportunities – In addition to search engine optimizations, it’s essential to actively participate in industry forums, contribute to blogs and write intelligent articles which showcase both your knowledge and your product. The most effective way of gaining traffic from social networks and online forms is to contribute intelligently. If people like what you have to say, they will visit your web site!
- Hosting Provider – Your hosting company provides server space for your web site. There are many hosting companies to choose from. One of the most important factors to consider is server availability. Customers who are unable to access your site due to server errors may not return. Look for a hosting provider which guarantees 99% uptime. We host our web site with GoDaddy.
- Web statistics reporting — Many hosting providers offer web statistics reporting. These reports provide details on site visitors, including search engine referrer, site entry and exit pages. This information is key to maintaining an optimized site.
- Site design – The importance of a good design cannot be overstated. Companies looking to sell products or services online need to present a professional interface. Although site design is not directly related to search engine ranking, a poor design will certainly detract from the overall user experience.
- Content accessibility – This is one of the more challenging components to search engine optimization for those with little or no knowledge of HTML code or experience with an HTML editor. It is important to have an overall understanding of the significance of all these unique elements and how they contribute to search engine rankings. If you have the time and patience to learn web editing software, then hiring a consulting firm would be the best strategy.
Know your competition. Know where your competitors are placed in search engine results pages and evaluate which keywords they are using on their site.
These are the technical components that will need to be considered during site optimization and deployment.
Without original, well written, interesting content, no search engine optimization strategy will succeed. Content forms the basis of any site optimization strategy. Content generation should be your primary focus.
The optimization implementation phase will involve fine-tuning content and site structure as well as site deployment. Once the site is checked for errors, broken links, browser compatibility, then the site can be submitted to various directories and search engines. It is at this time that all promotional activities will take place – including any external print or other media adverting. You should also start adding your web site URL tag line to professional or industry journals in which you contribute.
Search engine optimization is not a “one-off” effort. It is an iterative process and needs to be revisited on a monthly basis. Web site statistics tools, search engine research and maintaining surveillance of the competition are all important parts of maintaining, and improving, search engine ranking. After the initial deployment, expect to review your search engine status within 4-6 weeks. If your ranking does not steadily improve, you will need to revisit your optimization strategy and adjust your content accordingly.
There are many fantastic resources available on search engine optimization. Below are a few for your consideration: