We all want positive attention and we want it for our websites, too. We all turn to search engines for answers and direction these days. Search engine optimization (SEO) provides a competitive advantage in attracting visitors and customers. In addition, SEO produces clear and measurable returns in terms of number of visitors, their activity on the site and purchases made.
If you’re a small business just starting out or a large company with a strong brand, the need for ongoing SEO is still there. You want to show up in searches for your company name, for your product or service, for your locality, for specialty markets—however your potential or loyal customers might look for you.
When you start or rebrand a business or non-profit
The SEO process can begin as soon as you know what your company will deliver and who you want for customers. Even before you have a web site, you should have some thoughts on this. Communicate them to the designer of your new or redesigned web site. And when you’re interviewing designers or programmers, ask them what they will do to make sure their design does not harm or hamper SEO. Even if you’re not sure if the answer you get is correct, you’ll know if you hear any hemming and hawing on the issue. If your designer wants to do everything in Flash and can’t tell you how he or she will make it SEO friendly, then move on to the next designer. Your programmer should be able to tell you how she or he will create pages that can be easily read and understood by both humans and search engines.
Having a plan for your SEO early will allow you to use that plan in your site’s architecture. For instance, if you’ll be selling an entire selection of door knobs, you should know what term you’ll be using for SEO. Will you be optimizing for “door levers,” “door knobs” or “lock sets”? Name your directory and files with the most appropriate term(s).
Writers for your site’s content will want to know your SEO strategy. If you’re going to optimize for an industry term instead of a general term (like cardiomyopathy instead of heart disease), your content producers need to know. They need to know what terms to use in headlines and photo captions. Conversely, your subject experts need to keep your SEO adviser informed of current jargon and interest trends.
SEO insights often generate ideas for new site content. A good SEO adviser can also provide statistics that show how successful different pieces of content or different writers have been. Your SEO adviser can often help turn a poorly performing piece of content into one more frequently visited and read.
Community of sites
Obtaining well-worded inbound links to your site is crucial to good SEO. Identifying sites that could and should link to yours is something that can be researched even before your site is completed. Knowing your marketing strategy will help with this and with the timing of requesting those links. Identification of your major competitors and their strategies can also begin this early. While much of this research was conducted when you produced your first business plan, competitive research should be an on-going process that continually informs business decisions, including SEO.
When you’re considering a new CMS
A new CMS can and will cause a lot of stress in your office. Keep some of it to a minimum by making sure that page templates facilitate content optimization. In other words, you should be able to control title and heading tags, meta tags, and alt tags. Make sure you have options for including user generated content and social media, keeping in mind that new social media tools and sites will be coming in the future.
When sales and sales leads are being evaluated
Data from your site’s analytics program, from your SEO adviser, and from your sales team will all help target phrases to generate more visits and inquiries from the people most likely to convert into a sale. Providing a positive experience before and after purchase, creating and fostering conversations around your brand, and getting coverage on trusted websites can contribute to improved search engine rankings and sales.
SEO isn’t an isolated marketing tactic. It’s an ongoing process to be reviewed, updated, and evaluated regularly in collaboration with other business functions when possible.