Ideally, you want your site to be displayed somewhere on the first two to three pages of results. Most people won’t look beyond the third page if they get even that far. Indeed, it’s the sites that land on the first page of results that get the most traffic, and traffic is translated into revenue, which is the ultimate goal of our Seo Plan of Action.
To achieve a high position in search results, your site must be more than simply recognizable by a search engine crawler. It must satisfy a set of criteria that not only gets the site catalog but can also get it cataloged above most (if not all) of the other sites that fall into that category or
topic. This is no easy task.
Some of the criteria by which a search engine crawler determines your site’s rank in a set of
results include the following:
■ Anchor text
■ Site popularity
■ Link context
■ Topical links
■ Title tags
■ Site language
■ Site maturity
Creating Your SEO Plan of Action
As you begin to consider what it is you’re doing with SEO, keep something in mind: SEO is all about the details. You may have heard this tired phrase before, but don’t discount it because it’s no longer completely fresh and ‘‘buzzy.’’ It’s still true. SEO, especially organic SEO, is all about the little things you do that make a big difference over time, and sometimes even immediately. For example, I work on a website about identity theft, and one of the things I do is create content to help people avoid identity theft or recover from it if they have already been victimized. In the course of taking over this site from the person who worked on it last, I found myself fighting struggling page ranks on various search engines. One thing I did to combat this was some keyword research.
I looked into all the keywords that people were using to find my site, and then I began integrating those keywords into content that people are actually looking for. I still don’t rank number one of my most desired keyword (identity theft), but I do rank on the first page for many of the Long Tail keyword phrases that my users search for (such as disaster identity theft, senior identity theft, and vacation identity theft). It was a minor change in the larger picture. I was already creating content for the site, but by focusing on some of the terms that I learned visitors were using, I improved my web site’s search rankings. In at least one case, that improvement happened on the same day! In other words, don’t discount the little things. Even minor details, such as refocusing your keyword efforts or adding the right tags in the right places can make a major difference in the amount of traffic that your site receives.
As you begin putting your SEO plan together, the whole task of SEO may seem a little overwhelming. Don’t let it get the best of you. Look at SEO in small, bite-size pieces. For example, instead of looking at your site as a whole, look at each page on the site. Prioritize those pages, and then plan your SEO around each page’s priority. Taking a single page into consideration helps to eliminate the ‘‘everything has to happen right now’’ issue and makes it possible for you to create an SEO plan that maximizes your web site’s potential in the minimum amount of time. Top-priority pages should be the ones that your visitors will most naturally gravitate to, such as your homepage, or pages that will generate the most traffic or revenue. When prioritizing pages, you’re also creating a roadmap for your marketing efforts. If three of the pages on your site are your top priority, those three will have the lion’s share of time, capital, and effort when it comes to SEO and marketing.
After you have prioritized your site, you should assess where you stand and where you need to be with your current SEO efforts. Again, assess each page individually, rather than the site as a whole. In SEO, individual pages are equally important (if not more so) than the entire site. All of your efforts are designed to rank one page above all others in search results. Which page is the most important should be determined by your business needs? Your SEO assessment should be a document that outlines the current standing of the main SEO elements of each page. It should contain columns for the element of the site you’re assessing, the current status of that element, what needs to be improved in that element, and the deadline for improvement. It’s also helpful to put a checkbox next to each item, which can be marked when improvements are completed, and a column for follow-up, because SEO is an ongoing process.
The elements that should be considered during an assessment include the following:
■ Site/page tagging: The meta tags that are included in the coding of your website are essential to having that site listed properly in a search engine. Tags to which you should pay specific attention are the title tags and the description tags because these are the most important to a search engine.
■ Page content: How fresh is your content? How relevant is it? How often is it updated?How much content is there? Content is still important when it comes to search results.
After all, most people are looking for a specific piece of content, whether it’s information or a product. If your content is stale, search engines might eventually begin to ignore
your site in favor of a site with fresher content. There are exceptions to this generalization, however, and one exception is when your content is, by nature, very rich but not very
dynamic. Because of the usefulness of the content, such a site will probably continue to rank well, but it’s a difficult case to determine. In general, fresh content is better.
■ Site links: Site links are essential in SEO. Crawlers and spiders look for the links into
and out of your site in order to traverse it and collect data on each URL. However, they also look for those links to be in context, meaning the link must come from or lead to a
site that is relevant to the page being indexed. Broken links tend to be a large problem when it comes to search engine ranking, so ensure that links are still working on the
■ Site map: Believe it or not, a sitemap will help your website be more accurately linked. This is not the ordinary sitemap that you include to help users quickly navigate through your site. This sitemap is an XML-based document, at the root of your HTML, that contains information (URL, last updated, relevance to surrounding pages, and so on)
on each of the pages within the site. Using this XML sitemap helps to ensure that even the deep pages within your site are indexed by search engines. If you don’t have a sitemap, you should create one. If you do have one, make sure it’s accurate and up to date.
Finishing our the Plan of Action
With the site assessment out of the way, you should have a good idea of what areas need work and what areas are in good shape. Don’t assume that the areas that don’t currently need work will always be perfect, however. That’s not how it works. At the very least, changes to the pages will require changes to the SEO efforts that you’re putting forth; at most, they may require that you begin SEO efforts for that page all over again.
You can now take the time to put together all of the information that you’ve gathered into a cohesive picture of the SEO efforts you should be making. Your SEO plan is more than just a picture of what’s there and what’s not, however. This is the document that you use to tie everything together: current standing, marketing efforts, capital expenditures, time frames — all of it. The document should look much like any other plan that you create, such as your business plan, which likely includes an area for background information, marketing information, plans for growing the business, and plans for managing problems that may arise.
An SEO plan is very similar. You’ll have your current standings, the goals that you plan to hit, and the marketing efforts that you plan to make for each page (or for the site as a whole). You’ll even include the capital expenditures that you anticipate as you implement your SEO plan.
You’ll also want to include the strategies you plan to use. Those strategies can include efforts such as submitting your site or pages from your site to directories manually and planning the content you’ll use to draw search crawlers, or they can be keyword marketing plans or pay-per-click programs you plan to use. In addition, be sure to include a time line for the testing and implementation of those efforts, as well as for regular follow-ups.