SEO Strategies | The SEO 3 Strategy Guide

Here is a common question every website marketer has dealt with at some point or another. How do we improve free traffic from search engines such as Google?
This section of this website will explore the various approaches that should be considered in the pursuit top search engine rankings and increases in visitors to your website.

Step One.
The big picture.
Take a step back, a deep breath, and look at the big picture. Before you start optimizing your website making changes and tweaking tags here and there, first you might want to weigh the pros and cons & essentially the impact of the changes that you are considering. Take for example that you decide through some keyword research that your site is not targeting the best keywords or ones with the highest search volume. If you go ahead and begin making changes & targeting new keywords, consider that the current traffic you are getting from existing keywords may be at stake. As a result, I am of the opinion that the first step in performing the task of SEO, does not begin with keyword research. Many marketers that start jumping up and down about; keywords that they want to rank for, or well ranking websites that they want to buy, what positions their individual keywords are ranking for, or what ever the case may be, with out first looking at the bigger picture are likely setting them selves up for significant costs in both development, and also opportunity costs.

The bigger picture, my dear reader and friend, will involve some research and analysis that goes much deeper than keyword research.
The following suggestions for such analysis when explored will allow you to see the forest through the trees.
So get ready to roll up your sleeves as we explore the initial steps involved in first assessing the appropriate first steps on the path to SEO nirvana.

Here are a few questions one should first consider when first looking at the big picture:

  • Where is most of my traffic already coming from & why?
  • Who are the best performing competitors in my industry & what are they doing that I am not, & why are they the SEO leaders?
  • Do I optimize my existing site by making changes to existing pages, or should I consider building new pages on my site and on sub-domains or sub-directories?
  • Should I just buy another competitor site that is ranking well and redirect all the traffic to my website?
  • Should I or can I pursue improvements to my SEO traffic?
  • What are the costs of improving SEO and potential gains?
  • What are the other options for traffic available to me, what about social media?
  • If I optimize for a specific search engine which one should I target?
  • Whats my strategy, I need a strategy?
  • Should I hire a third party search agency?
  • Should I fire my existing SEO agency?
  • Are my in-house resources doing everything they can be doing to improve traffic, if not what can I do to help them?
  • Are my in-house resources doing anything right now that will negatively impact SEO in the future?

By exploring these questions you will be able to begin a plan that factors in the SEO traffic opportunities in your industry and you will begin to be able move forward in a manner that targets the most opportunity for the least cost or risk to your existing traffic.
These are actually very simple procedural questions that can be answered and if your team is not able to clearly provide you with the answers please feel free to consider an initial consultation with me.

Step Two.
Prioritizing SEO initiatives.
You will soon find that there will always be people providing various solutions for improving your SEO.
The key is to be able to prioritize which SEO initiatives will have the highest reward for the least amount of investment in both time and money.
The best way to go about prioritizing SEO initiatives is to estimate potential traffic opportunity associated with each initiative.
There are several methods for estimating potential SEO traffic gains or future traffic losses.
Regression modeling involves trending existing traffic performance and can be a good method for evaluating future traffic movement, particularly if limited changes are being made and also this generally is more accurate for continuing a forecast of traffic that is in decline. Potential traffic opportunity can also be measured by using a combination of click through rate analysis combined with analysis of keyword impression data from tools such as Google Adwords, or Wordtracker.
In most cases this traffic analysis is never 100% accurate at predicting the exact amount of traffic that each initiative will yield right away, these methods are more practical for the sake of stack ranking and prioritizing SEO initiatives against each other.
Later I will provide an example of a traffic forecast and SEO prioritization spreadsheet that I used to help plan a 2010 SEO strategy roadmap.
For the sake of client privacy and confidentiality I have changed the numbers and initiatives to be fictitious, and am simply displaying this as an example of how SEO initiatives can be prioritized.

Step Three.

Gather more data!
This time you will want to benchmark your existing performance so that you can measure if your changes are in fact having any impact. Benchmarking is important for several reasons and in addition to measuring the impact of your changes, its is valuable to share your wins with the team members who helped implement the changes. Showing others the fruits of their labors will pay off when it comes time for getting their help on additional SEO projects down the line. SEO is very much a relationship based endeavor and thanking other resources within your organization for their help in contributing to success and sharing the data that supports the success will often inspire or facilitate other SEO wins down the line.

Step Four.
The process of SEO
Review your processes that enable change & improvements.
Are your resources aligned in a manner that for every winner there is a looser. For example, if you focus too heavily in one area, will other areas suffer?
Here is a chart that I presented to an executive team to explain the three areas where SEO can be impacted from a resource allocation perspective. The three areas that the SEO team needs to be involved with are:

SEO strategy : Three areas for SEO improvement

Area 1. involves working as a shared service with PM UED and DEV teams to review new product offerings, redesigns or other site changes. Its about being available for the other cross functional teams to use your SEO resources.

Area 2. involves more collaboration with the rest of your organization and is in regard to working on fixing the existing website to stay up to date with SEO best practices or to optimize the existing site site on an ongoing basis.

Area 3. is developing new SEO projects, landing pages , or other SEO projects that can be managed.

If your SEO resources spend too much time focusing on one area vs another then SEO traffic is at stake. Ideally align your SEO resources so that the team is capable of monitoring these three SEO touch points.

Step Five
Execute against your top initiatives.

Here is a chart that shows the three areas where SEO is impacted

Here are some common top initiatives for SEO that will reap the most reward. These initiatives have been stack ranked below based on my experience within the various websites I have managed SEO for, I have organized the top traffic initiatives closer to the top. This is not an all inclusive list of every SEO strategy that you could employ, rather this is simply a high level overview of just a few of the big traffic winners I have had the pleasure of seeing reap rewards. Remember to try to align your efforts such that you do not completely ignore all three areas mentioned earlier that can impact SEO.

Improve website architecture
Such improvements can include:
Improve site speed
Implement SEO friendly URL’s
Implement ptimized breadcrumbs
Improve discoverability of pages, through implementing SEO best practices across site navigation
Create site maps such as: on-page site maps, XML site maps, video site maps, image site maps, news site maps, & inventory site maps
Reduce internal 404 errors


Improve website content

Such improvements can include:
Remove duplicate content
Build a system that enables user generated content
Organize existing content into related categories, also known as building content silos
Build new content silos, targeting new keywords
Develop a content strategy that targets “the long tail”
Implement dynamic content
Mine popular internal search queries for new content opportunities
Compare SEO meta data against SEM creatives, use the top SEM creatives for SEO and measure organic click through rates
Develop SEO optimized press releases

Improve links
Such improvements can include:
Improve all internal linking to SEO best practices
Develop strategies to generate more inbound links, also referred to as link baiting articles and tools
Implement PageRank sculpting techniques
Consider partnerships, mergers & acquisitions with SEO in mind


Conclusion

This SEO strategy can also be referred to as the SEO 3 processes, because if you apply the three levers that can impact SEO ( Content, Linking, Architecture) to the three areas where SEO is impacted, you will find that you can exponentially increase your SEO traffic and you should feel confident that you are doing everything possible to improve your SEO traffic. UPDATE: Here is a video where I recap an explanation of how the SEO3 process works for enterprise organizations that I delivered at SMX recently. It’s only a ten minute video.. check it out. Enterprise SEO Video Here.