There are few things more annoying online than scouring the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your website. The sinking feeling when you realize that all of your rivals have much better visibility and are cashing in on their internet presence can be damaging not just to morale but to the bottom line – in today’s economy, if you can’t be found on the likes of Google and Yahoo, you are likely to struggle to make sales and turn a profit.
If you recognize your business in this scenario, it’s time to commit to getting your search engine optimization (SEO) program off the ground. Although some businesses are put off by the fact that SEO is not immediate, some benefits do start to filter through very quickly. And, the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll start to see an improvement.
Deciding whether or not to conduct an optimization campaign or to invest those funds in another area of search engine marketing is not one that should be taken lightly. So many companies can tell tales of starting an SEO campaign, perhaps with unrealistic expectations or not enough of a budget to give the campaign the time it needed to be successful and then being disappointed when their interest presence didn’t improve. It is easy to blame the agency or optimizer in question when this happens, but it invariably leaves a poor impression of SEO – and sometimes online marketing as a whole – and a resolve to not venture into organic search territory in future.
As the head of an SEO agency, I’ve seen this scenario a thousand times and no matter which side of the table you’re sitting on, it’s immensely frustrating for all concerned. Only by going into a campaign with full knowledge of how much money and how long a process your optimization is likely to take can you make an informed decision about proceeding. Avoid disappointment and wasted time by following these steps before committing to getting a new campaign off the ground.
1. Decide if you can afford it
Although search engine optimization is an increasingly essential marketing activity, there’s no point embarking on the SEO trail if you can’t afford to commit to a reasonable time frame. There are no quick fixes with organic optimization, so expect to budget for a minimum of six months worth of consultancy. If your keywords are very competitive, a year or more is a realistic time frame. Sitting down and deciding if this is feasible means you’ll have to plan other marketing activities to see what other drains there are likely to be on finances. Don’t forget that you’ll need to factor in extra expenditure if you don’t have SEO friendly systems in place such as a content management system or HTML or similar website.
2. In house or outsourced?
Having committed to a website optimization campaign, you must now decide if you want to carry out your search engine work in house or outsource to a third party supplier. There are pros and cons for both options – in house means you’ll be able to keep a much closer eye on proceedings simply by dint of being in the same place at the same time every day, but there is also the hassle of training or recruiting a suitable SEO account manager. Finding the necessary expertise can be very time consuming and can be more costly as you’ll have to factor in salaries, tax, and other associated expenses. If you decide to outsource, you’ll still have to spend time searching for the correct skill set when you set out to choose your SEO agency.
3. Choosing a search engine optimization agency
There are lots of search engine optimization agencies employing black hat SEO techniques and others that promise number-one rankings but delivery very little. Tread carefully when choosing your optimization partner, as you don’t want to do anything that may jeopardize your existing standing with the search engines or present the wrong impression to clients and potential clients.
When choosing a search engine optimization agency, look for a service that has a strict white hat SEO only policy. Ask to see examples of previous work, speak to existing clients if possible, and get a detailed breakdown of what is and isn’t included in the price you have been quoted. Remember, it is impossible to give guarantees in search engine optimization, so be wary of any firm offering such promises.
4. Decide on objectives, keywords and a plan of action
Before getting down to the practicalities and execution of your new search engine optimization activities, it’s advisable to request that your new agency plan out at least the first month’s work and decide on a series of objectives. Objectives let you know what you are working towards, so be specific when noting these – to do that, you’ll also need to decide on the keywords or phrases that are most important to you. Make sure you communicate exactly what you need and expect to see and don’t be afraid to ask your agency to go back and add more detail if the information is too vague to provide a weekly or monthly timeline of progress.