Some Tips for Planning your SEO Campaign for the Long Term
At one time you used to be able to perform a one time optimization on your site and reap the benefits for months. In todays competitive landscape, however, that is not the case. This is because your competition is always growing and changing and therefore you have to as well. This article explains what you need to do to plan a long term SEO campaign.
Before Google there was Altavista, and once your got your site into Altavista you didn’t want to change it for fear of a loss in rankings. achieving high rankings was easy enough and without changing anything you could maintain them for months.
But Altavista isn’t the important engine it once was. now you have to optimize for Google, Yahoo! and MSN. The good news is that the three engines generally consider the same factors when ranking your pages. They are: Content, meta tags, links and age of all those factors. Granted no one knows for sure which of these are more important than the others, but in general, content is the most important.
All the engines have realized that the most important aspect to their business is people. In order to keep the people coming back and using their engine, they have to continue to improve on their results.
The results have to be relevant to that person at the time they are searching.
As a website owner, it is imperative that you understand how these search engine changes can affect your site. If you don’t adapt to their changes your site likely will suffer.
Therefore it is imperative that you have some form of ongoing SEO campaign, whether its aggressive as a monthly target of incoming links, or as simple as regularly publishing new site pages, or a combination of these two aspects of SEO.
Therefore, the main considerations for one planning a long term search engine optimization campaign are their budget and how aggressive they want to be.
A site owner who doesn’t have an extensive budget likely can’t compete against a site that can afford to spend thousands per months on link building for example. That is because all the engines use some form of link popularity for ranking sites and generally the site with the most links wins (There is much more to link building than this, but essentially it comes down to volume).
Similarly, a site owner needs to invest in an ongoing content campaign as well. Because you can be sure that your competitors are doing so as well.
Now a content development SEO campaign can be something as simple as setting up a blog on your site and posting regularly, or going so far as to hire professional SEO copywriters to create optimized content for your site.
In either case, the growth is positive, however there are obviously benefits to professionally written pages.
So what should one consider when defining an SEO budget?
There can be many aspects which affect your SEO. Some companies like to perform an in-depth analysis of your current site, making suggestions to improve existing optimization, and remove barriers to search engine indexing, while other firms will swing into action performing keyword analysis and writing meta tags.
Ideally you should receive quotes from many SEO firms and pick the one you feel best suits you. Keep in mind that you do have a budget, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with them. Prices can vary from $50 per hour to many hundreds per hour depending on the caliber of firm you choose. And like most things, you generally get what you pay for.
What should my SEO campaign contain?
Depending on what way you go, I would recommend a key phrase analysis, to help suggest those phrases which accurately represent your site, which you can compete for that will drive traffic to your site. Also, if you can get it, a detailed site analysis outlining the areas of improvement your site needs.
Sometimes the SEO firm can perform these changes for you (at a cost) or you can do them, if you have sufficient skill. If not you can perhaps find a third party to make the changes for you.
Some SEO campaigns will also either contain meta tags to use on your pages, as well as optimization suggestions for those pages, so that the content can be tweaked to match the meta tags. If you don’t receive meta tags you should at least receive guidelines and assistance on optimizing your pages yourself.
Some SEO programs also include some link building, however this can be a time consuming and costly process. The last time I did link building for a client (using some automated gathering and parsing tools) still took me over an hour to find one high quality link. Therefore if you are paying an SEO firm an hourly rate for this, it can get quite expensive.
However, link building is something you can do on your own time, provided you have some guidance from the SEO firm, or you can hire a firm which specializes in link building.
In general a lot of the firms out there have a variety of packages from mostly self serve, with consulting, to full service. It is up to you to decide what you think you can afford.
Some other considerations for an ongoing SEO campaign
Now, you are probably thinking “great I can spend a few hundred (or thousand) and get this work done at once and be done with it.” But I’d have to tell you that you’d be mistaken. SEO is not a one time thing.
I consider it like car maintenance – it’s something that has to be done on a regular basis. If you don’t perform regular oil changes, your car breaks down and repair bills can get very expensive. Similarly, simply performing a one time optimization will only take you so far, and then the site begins to lose in the rankings it once had.
That being said, you can generally find a firm which will do a bunch of optimization initially and then step down to a maintenance package, whereby they provide ongoing consultation and minor changes on a monthly basis to help maintain your rankings.
As such you need to factor this ongoing monthly cost into your “Cost of Doing Business” online. just like you’d have to hire a janitor and repair crews to keep your brick and mortar store clean and functional.
For example, you might have an initial “setup” that can run you a few thousand, and may take a month or 2 to complete, but after that work is done perhaps you can “step down” to a $500 monthly maintenance package including some consulting time, maintenance time and perhaps even some light duty link building.
Why else you should plan for long term SEO?
November 16, 2003 will be a date that many webmasters, site owners and SEO firms will remember. This was the day that the now infamous “Florida” update began on Google. It was at this time that sites which had traditionally owned the top of the SERPs had disappeared altogether while sites that struggled for a top 30 listing moved to the top.
For a long time people complained about how Google could do this to them. We know now this was Google’s first attempt to drastically improve the index. And the results can be felt today – the index is much cleaner and you don’t see the same poor quality sites you used to.
And as an SEO who went through this time I can tell you that of all the clients I deal with on a regular basis, probably less than 10% felt any negative impact. If anything most of my clients benefited from the change. Why?
Well for one, I don’t go for the “quick fix” SEO tactics. Up until the Florida Update all you needed was tons of links. Quality and Relevancy didn’t matter. But I didn’t condone that type of link building. Sure it may have taken me longer to find the relevant authoritative links that I felt my clients needed but in the end they weathered the storm that was the Florida Update.
I also instituted a regular content development program with many of my clients long before Florida. This too helped them weather that storm and the many which have followed since then.
And this is my point to all this – a good SEO firm will not only help you weather such drastic algorithm changes they should in fact be able to predict them to a certain extend and help you develop strategies to help combat them, should your site suffer the effects of a Florida like update.
So just how do you plan a long term SEO campaign?
Well there are two ways you can go about it – the first is the DIY path but this requires significant investments of your time, to learn the proper way to do SEO, as well as time to keep up to date on the current state of search engine affairs. And I have to tell you from experience that this can be very time consuming.
I spend a good part of my job researching SEO tactics so I can develop effective strategies for my clients. It’s not like I have a business to run on top of that. My job is to understand how search engines work so my clients can benefit. That type of understand takes a long time to pick up and maintain.
That being said, if you have the time to devote to this, you can save yourself a lot of money. Perhaps all you need then is a consultant, perhaps, which you can throw ideas at to get their expert opinion.
the second way is to hire a firm to do it for you. Granted this will cost you more, but you will be able to sleep at night knowing you are in good hands, and that the firm you hire should be on top of things and won’t get you banned for unethical tactics.
However you go, you MUST plan for the long term with any SEO campaign, you are no longer able to perform a one time optimization and walk away from the site. Today’s search engine landscape required constant change and innovation because if you don’t do it, I can almost guarantee you that your online competition is.