Back to Basics: Defining Your SEO Strategy

by on 06/22/2012 • 8 Comments | SEO

Hey-oh! Rhea here and guess what? I’m supposed to leave for vacation in about six hours. I know I’m a business owner, what am I doing taking vacation?!

Maintaining sanity, that’s what. We all need a break from our technology loop:

Before I go I want to follow-up on several questions left in the comments of last week’s Whiteboard Friday. I talked about the difference between SEO vendors and SEO consultants and the most common question was how to make the shift from vendor to consultant or a concern over being stuck in the middle. So, I wanted to take a couple minutes to explain what a piece of the process has looked like for us.

While the following may sound incredibly basic, take a few minutes to write out (with real pen and paper or a whiteboard!) the answers to these questions and I guarantee you will feel more professionally satisfied, focused and fired up. This will translate to an increase in creativity and value to your business or clients. Our team is loving the approach and it’s helping us achieve more buy-in from our clients who see us “getting it.”

Frame a Purpose Statement

We start with the most basic question. It may feel basic, but trust me, it’s a doozy and amazing how easy it is to get tripped up here, especially if you’re used to hitting a link quota with a standard set of link building strategies. You’re in the weeds cranking out links, but how often do you stop and think about your client from a 10,000 foot perspective?! Start here:

Why does the business exist?

The usual answer is—to make money!

Yeah, we get it, we all want money, but there’s no difference between a bakery and a car insurance company if we look at business in such simplistic terms.

So, step back and really think about this. Why does your business exist? Make sure you put this in terms of the service or product you’re supplying versus founder motivations.

At Outspoken Media, our answer looked like this: Our purpose is to help grow and protect businesses.

Using the aforementioned examples, the bakery’s purpose may be to provide fresh, local artisan bread to their community. The car insurance company exists to make roads safer and help their customers recover from an accident.

In something as simple as a purpose statement, there are enormous opportunities to drive creativity with regard to content marketing, audience targeting, keyword research, etc. What am I talking about? Let’s ask another question:

Set Website Goals

Why does the website exist?

Let’s look at that bakery again. Their website exists to:

  1. Connect with new customers
  2. Nurture customer loyalty and retention
  3. Attract and acquire new talent
  4. Build industry credibility
  5. Demonstrate the values of the business

Awesome! Now we’ve got a clear understanding of what we want to measure on the site: conversions, lifetime value, lead sources, job applicants, industry mentions/sentiment, brand perception, etc. These define metrics, not just goals and they should help you see the bigger picture of a website. Whenever you do anything online, make sure it’s rooted in the business purpose and goals for the site. It will be difficult to go wrong if you have this map guiding decisions and marketing strategy.

The bigger question is of course “how.”

Develop Your SEO Strategy (Marketing Strategy!)

It’s time to ask:

How are the website goals accomplished?

Using our bakery example, how does the bakery accomplish their goals?

1. Connect with new customers

The site can achieve this by displaying accurate contact information such as their phone number, address, hours, days of operation, directions, email, etc. They should also consider accessibility and how users may be trying to find information about them. As a storefront, they probably have a lot of users trying to look up information from their phone or map directions. They will want to develop a mobile and local strategy. They should also look into social media to ensure that they’re present on sites like Yelp and Facebook and their visitors can check-in at their property. This will drive new customer acquisition through social mentions/shares, personalized search results and reviews that build credibility.

2. Nurture customer loyalty and retention

This can be accomplished through basic customer service—using the site to publish daily specials, reviews, coupons, catering and event info, etc. Through email marketing, they can capture an audience that prefers to receive their news through email. Through social media they capture a different market that wants to access the world through their Facebook wall or tweets. Consider all aspects of your customer’s lifestyle and make sure you’re getting in front of them outside of just the SERPs, because these days, we know that personalized search and the knowledge graph are becoming far more crucial to a successful SEO strategy.

3. Attract and acquire new talent

Provide accurate contact information for HR and post open positions to the site and social accounts. More important, make sure the site conveys the expectations and values that make employees successful in your organization. This will help ensure that applicants understand your business before applying and you’re more likely to receive a better quality candidate as a result. Don’t be afraid to get personal and share founder stories or quirky pictures of the business and team. This will demonstrate the culture of your business.

4. Build industry credibility

Credibility is where I always find the most value in content strategy. This is when you’re defining what you know and publishing content around it. The baker may want to publish recipes, share their approach to bread making, reviews from customers, awards/recognition from peers, seasonal notices/information, etc. We already stated that the bakery’s purpose may be to provide fresh, local artisan bread to their community. Take this statement and turn it around like this to guide content strategy (and even blog categories):

The bakery writes about fresh ingredients, local supplies, artisan creations, bread making and the community.

Now you don’t just have a content strategy, but blog or resource categories. You’re developing your own Wonder Wheel! This will shape not just your content strategy, but the audience you’re targeting and the methods you’ll use to reach them. Now you have a link building and social media strategy.

5. Demonstrate the values of the business

This has already been addressed in the points above, so I won’t go into a ton of detail. Basically, does your content reflect your values? Have you ever thought about what those values are? As an agency your values may even be at odds with the clients! Find out and make sure you’re on the same page or you’ll have an incredibly difficult time finding success in your link building, social media outreach, or other campaigns.

All of this from three simple questions:

  • Why does the business exist?
  • Why does the website exist?
  • How are the website goals accomplished?

This may sound super simple, but when is the last time you took a minute to do this? Step back. Try it and you will be so excited by the flood gates of link building, content marketing, social media marketing, on-page optimization, branding and customer service.

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About the Author

Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale is the Chief Executive Officer of Outspoken Media. When she isn't fighting for the SEO industry, she's She-Ra on Twitter. Connect with Rhea on Google.

Get social with Rhea at Twitter

8 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Defining Your SEO Strategy

  1. Love this post Rhea – great breakdown of the actual thinking you guys do. Might well end up stealing a lot of these ideas when talking with new clients…

    Thanks, and have a great holiday :)

  2. This is a helpful post. It’s easy to get sucked into a normal route and what works for some, may not work for others. Stepping back and asking your three questions will really help to ensure each business is getting the right kind of attention tailored to their needs.

  3. The goals of every website are different. Some websites are purely informational, others have an e-commerce component, and others are to attain leads. Understanding the goal of the site will help in developing a proper SEO strategy. It’s necessary to understand the visitors intent in order to select the right keywords.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with point number 4 (that rhymed *facepalm*). Doing Content Marketing and providing quality information that applies to your target audience which they’re bound to share is far more productive than creating spam articles with exact match keyword links back to your own site.

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